How important are the protections afforded by domestic partnerships and marriage equality? Is it better to be confrontational with your advocacy or are we better heard by sharing a heartfelt story? These are just a few of the thought provoking topics successfully covered in the upcoming movie, Freeheld.
Based on the Oscar-winning short documentary and adapted by the writer of Philadelphia, Freeheld is the true love story of Laurel Hester and Stacie Andree and their fight for justice and equality. Laurel, portrayed by Julianne Moore, is a decorated New Jersey police detective, Laurel is diagnosed with cancer and wants to leave her hard earned pension to her domestic partner, Stacie, portrayed by Ellen Page. However the county officials called Freeholders, are the only people who can allow or prevent Laurel from doing this. Hard-nosed detective Dane Wells, portrayed by Michael Shannon, and exuberant activist Steven Goldstein, portrayed by Steve Carell, unite in Laurel and Stacie’s defense, rallying police officers and ordinary citizens to support their struggle for equality.
Although their case paved the road to our universal access to marriage equality today, very few people are aware of the struggles Laurel Hester faced in her dying days. In the early scenes of Freeheld, much is made of the age and vocational differences between Laurel and Stacie, adeptly portrayed by Julianne Moore and Ellen Page. Moore has been a fierce supporter of marriage equality which helps give the authenticity and compassion needed to take the arch of Laurel’s life from defiance to near defeat. And in her first major role since bravely coming out, Ellen Page is perfectly suited to reflect the heartache of living in the shadows of her partner’s closeted life being relegated to “friend” and “roommate” as Laurel struggles to align her personal and professional lives. There is a sweetness in their on-screen chemistry that is undoubtedly rooted in their conviction and dedication to telling this story.
After a devastating diagnosis of aggressive stage 4 lung cancer, Laurel’s do-right, low-profile is crushed by the very system she dedicated her life to protect and serve. Her all but two of her fellow officers can look past their bigotry and support Laurel in her greatest time of need. Without the community behind her, the biggest advocate first came from the outside as gay, Jewish activist Steven Goldstein, desperately searched for the face to his Garden State Equality marriage equality advocacy. His theatrics, antics and showmanship rattled the town council into action, but not compassion. It forced the conversation and successfully opened the door for Laurel, Stacie and Laurel’s partner to finally be seen and heard. As is often the case, our community works better when we use the tools that are most comfortable to us but in collaboration with each other.
Freeheld movie packs a punch. It will move you from cheers to tears with some great light-hearted moments in the campy lines of Steve Carrell as Goldstein. I wouldn’t take anything out of the movie but would simply add a bit more about the link to Laurel’s lung cancer and the overwhelming statistics of smoking in the LGBT community. We have long been the target of aggressive advertising from the tobacco industry and are disproportionately paying the price with our health and longevity.
After the huge victories of marriage equality this summer, we needed a movie like Freeheld to remind us all of the heros, heroines and grave injustices suffered in this rapid and historic movement.
Opens in Austin, Friday, October 16
Alamo Drafthouse – https://drafthouse.com/show/freeheld
Regal Arbor 8 – http://www.regmovies.com/Movies/Movie-Folder/2015/Freeheld-183818
Official Website – http://www.freeheld.movie/