Sunday, April 14, 2013

Free Samples: Movie Review

A directionless character in a mostly directionless film supported by
good actors and some funny lines.

Jillian (Jess Weixler) is a Stanford law-school drop-out reeling from her recent life choices with no direction for her future. Free Samples is one day in the life of Jillian. Covering for a friend, she’s forced to work at an ice cream truck handing out free samples of ice cream or ice cream-like substances. She doesn’t like it to say the least, but she doesn’t like much in her life. 2012

Directed by: Jay Gammill

Screenplay by: Jim Beggarly

Starring: Jess Weixler, Jesse Eisenberg, Halley Feiffer, and Jason Ritter

Spending essentially the entire film at the lonely ice cream truck in some LA suburban parking lot, each character, mostly strangers, come into Jillian’s life only once. They generally want ice cream and usually throw in an extra nonsense statement which Jillian likes taking offence too and rudely and sarcastically responds to them. The writing for all the random characters was pretty terrible. I can’t believe that every single stranger is insane and can’t order ice cream like a normal person (especially if that’s what they’re intending to do).

There are three supporting characters who see Jillian more than once: Her best friend Nancy (Halley Feiffer); her love interest Tex (Jesse Eisenberg); and her friend Wally (Jason Ritter). Each of them got a handful of funny lines – Nancy discussing her recent encounter with Wally was especially funny and then we could laugh the next time we saw Wally even though Ritter was underused. Eisenberg did a good job of playing a fairly confident suitor for the unstable Jillian.

Jess Weixler did a fantastic job playing Jillian and carrying the film. Jillian was inconsistent at times and always abrasive and insulting. It is extremely difficult to make such a character compelling, let alone likable. And while I wouldn’t say that Jillian really possessed either quality, Weixler added a sympathetic essence to her so you at least cared to see where Jillian would wind up at the end of the day. She's an interesting character with just a hint of relatability. You think you know her and understand her but you're not sure, and that can be enough to keep watching.

On the downside, you have to navigate all the stupidly unfunny random characters for over half the film until you get some twists to help reveal Jillian’s current predicament. I was also disappointed that the obstacles for her to sort out are predominantly romance related. However, there’s definitely some talent to be able to keep a film like “Free Samples” about an unlikable heroine stuck in an ice cream truck for one day interacting with one-off characters afloat.

Similar Titles:

The Waterhole (2009) - Hilarious dialogue for drunk, angry twenty-something guys.

The Giant Mechanical Man (2012) - A quirky, indie romantic comedy with just enough charm.

Lola Versus (2012) - The new generation of girls who don't have anything better to do than complain about love, sex, life and sex again.