Recently, I got an awesome opportunity to interview supercool former Austinite Mark Duplass about his new movie Safety Not Guaranteed, which I fell hard for at SXSW. The movie opens in Austin this Friday, so I’ll be posting the interview then too. To preview the interview, I thought about making the Netflix Instant Pick the Duplass brothers’ feature debut, The Puffy Chair, or one of the other great indies Mark Duplass has starred in and helped produce, like Humpday and True Adolescents, all of which you should definitely watch. And if you like laughing, you should already be watching The League, the FX show he stars in that ostensibly may be about fantasy football, but is really just about guys who trash talk each other because it’s the only way for them to show that they care.
But instead of any of those picks, I wanted to write about a movie that may have slipped under your radar. And though it doesn’t star Mark Duplass, it does star and is directed by his beautiful and talented wife (and his The League and The Puffy Chair co-star) Katie Aselton. Reportedly based on a loose outline, The Freebie runs less than 90 minutes, but during that time, Aselton and co-star Dax Shepard create one of the most naturalistic and believable relationships I’ve seen on screen in a long time. Which is what makes what happens over the course of the movie so devastating. As Annie and Darren, Aselton and Shepard play a married couple who love each other deeply but aren’t really in lust anymore, which ultimately leads them to decide they’ll each have a one-night stand, something they think will bring excitement back to their relationship. And of course, everyone but them can see that it’s pretty much the worst idea ever. Watching their decision and its aftermath play out is heartbreaking and, ultimately, an affecting examination of fidelity. What truly makes this worth the watch are the authentic and mostly improvised performances from Asleton and Shepard along with those from the supporting cast.
Aselton’s next directorial effort, the thriller Black Rock, premiered at Sundance earlier this year and stars her alongside Lake Bell and Kate Bosworth from a screenplay written by Mark Duplass. After seeing how she effectively created so much tension out of a relationship in The Freebie, I’m looking forward to seeing what she does with an out-and-out thriller.