Oh dear. I was set to love Freeheld, Peter Sollett's adaptation of the Oscar-winning documentary about New Jersey cop Laurel Hester (Julianne Moore), and her fight in the face of terminal illness and bigoted policies towards gay couples to have her pension go to her partner, Stacie Andree (Ellen Page), upon her death. Laurel's pension is technically allowed to go to Stacie, but a bunch of grim-faced local officials called "freeholders" stand in the way, and Laurel is dying of late-stage lung cancer.
Okay, so, a story about justice, with Julianne Moore and Ellen Page? How do you fuck that up? Oh, I guess by casting Steve Carell as a caricature of a gay man (WHY), but also half-Michael Scott (DOUBLE WHY), making his appearance in what's a mostly serious movie both jarring and offensive!
But what makes Freeheld so entirely frustrating is that, actually, it's almost good. Page and Moore are excellent as Stacie and Laurel (seriously, Ellen Page has a sad face to rival Claire Danes's "crying imminent" signature move). Josh Charles is a character actor I am glad to see in literally anything, including here, as a freeholder with a conscience. And Michael Shannon is great as Hester's partner—maybe too great?
One of the criticisms I've seen leveled at Freeheld is that it takes a story about a lesbian couple and turns it into the tale of a white, straight dude learning how not to be bigoted. But Shannon is so good that I got really caught up in his journey of self-discovery and wanted to buy him a copy of Feminism Is for Everybody. Maybe he and his open-minded cop buds could book-club it?
This is all to say that aside from Carell, nobody else is a sentient trope. That doesn't make it better, though, because one gay caricature is too many, and it's not enough to overcome the movie's pervading thinness, or to make it worthy of Page and Moore—to say nothing of the real-life women they portray.