Sunday, February 19, 2006

Let Down by "Freedomland"

Ever been really, really disappointed by the film adaptation of a book you really, really liked? That's how I feel this weekend with Richard Price's "Freedomland". Skip it.

My mistake was dismissing the across-the-board negative reviews and the pushed-back release date as indicators of something to avoid. Lou Lumenick of the New York Post was probably the most directionally correct in his review, calling it "a tedious melodrama that squanders the talents of Julianne Moore and Samuel L. Jackson, as well as a tough-minded novel by Richard Price." Claudia Puig of USA Today also gets it right, saying that "[t]he movie tries to be all things to all people: a violent mystery, a psychological portrait, a sociological statement, even a horror film. No character gets off without spouting cringe-inducing dialogue or lines that have been heard hundreds of times before." Moore was especially off-target in her take on Brenda Martin.

Directed by Spike Lee, the adaptation of Price's "Clockers" was a really good film, one of my favorites. But, with "Freedomland", director Joe Roth (2004's "Christmas with the Kranks") ultimately butchers the source work into a hack-y mess. I was hoping for a great deal more, especially with Price writing the screenplay himself (which I read and I can assure you was far better than what appeared on screen).

My bookshelves contain the entire canon of Price's work, and love his contributions to the best show on television, HBO's "The Wire". But this adaptation misses the mark entirely. The adage of the book often being better than the film is entirely true here.

Related thought: I wish there were a service that matched your film tastes to a critic. While I have extremely weird tastes, I find myself agreeing with Lumenick and Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwarzbaum more often than not, but such a service would be tres cool.

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