Synopsis: Darren (Shepard) and Annie (Aselton) have an enviable relationship built on love, trust and communication. Unfortunately, they can’t remember the last time they had sex. When a dinner party conversation leads to an honest discussion about the state of their love life, they begin to flirt with an idea for a way to spice things up. The deal: one night of freedom, no strings attached, no questions asked. Could a “freebie” be the cure for their ailing sex life? And will they go through with it? The Freebie is an insightful and humorous look at love, sustaining relationship and the awkwardness of monogamy when the haze of lust has faded.
The Freebie 8.0
eyelights: the dialogues. the cast. its realistic portrayal of the complexities of relationships.
eyesores: Darren’s reaction.
“So… are you ready?”
You’ve been in a relationship for a long time – so long, in fact, that the sexual spark is barely noticeable anymore. You’d love to feel that again, but you feel that the only place for it would be outside your relationship.
What would you do?
Would seek that which you desire outside your relationship? Would you? And what if your partner agreed and approved? What if you agreed to give each other one free pass, on one selected day, once a year? Would you do it then?
Such is the premise of ‘The Freebie’, a 2010 drama written, directed by and starring Katie Aselton.
Rich in dialogue, the picture explores a happy couple whose sex life has dried up nearly completely. Utterly open, close, and bonded, Darren and Annie discuss the notion of having sex with others to rekindle their own sex life.
And then proceed with their plan. But, despite having talked about it in depth, they have not considered one very important fact: this decision injects secrecy in an otherwise honest and stable relationship. And this creates insecurity.
I really enjoyed ‘The Freebie’ – far more than I’d expected. Based on the box art, I had half-expected a gimmicky dramedy of the types we get dozens of yearly. But I was intrigued and, when I got the chance to buy the DVD for 2$, I did.
What truly makes the movie is the dynamic between Katie Aselton and Dax Shepard, as Annie and Darren: they are extremely credible as loving partners, not just in their actions but in their exchanges as well; you feel the complicity.
They’re just lovely to watch together. They’re adorable. Perfect.
I felt like we were privy to the intimate moments between them, as they went to dinner parties with friends, discussed matters of the heart, their sex life, challenged each other to crossword races, hung out, spent days together.
What’s amazing is that Shepard came in at the last minute, 18 hours before shooting began, filling in for another actor, and that the dialogues were mostly improvised, based on a six-page outline by Aselton. Wow. Call me impressed.
Frankly, I was also very intrigued by the mere premise of the film. Could seeing other people add spice in a relationship? Other films suggest that this is bad news, and Annie’s sister warns her of the same, but I’ve known of people who do it.
In fact, in the last couple of years, I’ve started to notice that there are a lot of people who are in open relationships. I don’t get it, because (for whatever reason) I’m wired for monogamy. But I know that it not at all uncommon.
For me, sex is about intimacy, not about getting off, so I tend to bond with one person. Maybe I can deprogram that with some effort, but, as it stands, the notion of seeking sex outside my primary relationship is totally alien to me.
Thus, my interest in exploring it in cinema and literature: I want to understand, or at least get perspective on it.
The thing that ‘The Freebie’ illustrates well is how it unraveled this particular relationship because it was built on open dialogue and trust; there is nothing that they can’t talk about and are able to work things out in good faith.
But the moment that they decide they won’t discuss their individual freebies (the planning or the aftermath), for fear of hurting the other, they create a space between them, a division that wasn’t there. And this space grows with time.
It not only has the effect of muting the dialogues their relationship is based on, but this shakes the sense of security that they felt. So now, not only are they not talking freely, they are unsure of each other. It creates a rift.
To me, it was sad to see.
*MAJOR spoiler alert*
When everything goes to hell, after they each have their “freebie” Annie wanted to talk about it, if only to burst that bubble of silence, figuring that it couldn’t possibly make things any worse. He disagreed: he felt their emotions were too raw.
He wanted to wait a few more days, or however long needed for it to settle.
I was on board the whole way until this point, drawn in by their exchanges. But then I got extremely upset with Darren for the way he reacted when they talked, for turning the tables on her and reproaching her for “betraying” him, them.
!@#$. It SO completely unfair: it was his idea to begin with!!!
He had warned her, however, that emotions could flare up. And they did. And with emotion comes irrationality. He certainly didn’t misjudge himself. I just wish that he hadn’t lashed out at her the way he did. The damage may not be undone.
Had they not come up with a satisfying wrap-up, I likely would have knocked the picture a quarter mark, from 8.0 to 7.75. Ultimately, though, I was really happy the way it turned out, even if the ending isn’t as upbeat as we’d hope for.
*MAJOR spoiler alert*
‘The Freebie’ takes a very real situation and possibility and approaches it with as much honesty as the characters do their relationship. That it was mostly improvised is stunning; it’s so seamless and perfectly structured you’d never tell.
It’s an excellent film and I’d certainly recommend it. Now I’m eager to see more of Katie Aselton’s work. If she can pull this off, who knows what else she’ll do.
Date of viewing: April 4, 2016