Thursday, June 06, 2019

The Fairy Tale Project | Freeway (1996)

Who's in it?: Reese Witherspoon (Friends, Legally Blonde, Monsters vs. Aliens), Kiefer Sutherland (The Lost Boys, Young Guns, The Three Musketeers, 24), Dan Hedaya (Cheers, The Addams Family, Alien Resurrection), Brooke Shields (The Blue Lagoon, Brenda Starr, Suddenly Susan), Brittany Murphy (Sin City), and Bokeem Woodbine (Underground, Spider-Man: Homecoming).

What's it about?: A modern version of "Red Riding Hood" in which a teenage girl has to deal with a metaphorical wolf on her way to her grandmother's house.

How is it?: Much darker than I expected, but that's probably on me. "Red Riding Hood" is a dark story to begin with.

Witherspoon plays an illiterate teenager named Vanessa Lutz who refuses to go back into the foster care system when her mom is arrested (again) for prostitution and drug possession. Vanessa steals a car and heads to the Interstate to find her grandmother, whom she's never met, in hopes of being able to stay with her. But when her car breaks down, she's given a lift by a seemingly kindly child psychologist (Sutherland) who turns out to be a serial killer. And then it gets weird.

There was a point in the film where it felt like everything was wrapping up, but it seemed early, so I checked the time. The film was only half over. To talk about this, I need to spoil a couple of things, but I won't talk about anything from the final act. If you think you might want to watch it though and remain completely clean going in, stop reading now. Otherwise, I have more to say about the plot and some of the themes of the film. I ended up liking the movie.


About halfway through the film (not even quite that), Vanessa gets away from Bob Wolverton (Sutherland) and shoots him a bunch of times. I mean, a bunch of times. She'd prefer to turn him in, but he's convinced her that it would be her word against his and that people would believe him. Class discrimination is a big theme of the film with Vanessa as a poster child for the disadvantaged. She's uneducated and has her own criminal background, but she's smart, brave, and oh so very capable of taking care of herself. At any rate, she believes that killing Bob is the only way to prevent him from hurting more girls.

Unfortunately, Bob lives. He's severely disfigured, but that and his upper-middle class status - with his attractive, supportive wife (Shields) as his spokesperson - enables him to claim victimhood from Vanessa. The sheriff (Hedaya) arrests her, there's a trial, she goes to jail... and the movie keeps going. (Woodbine has a small role as Vanessa's boyfriend; I just wanted to mention him in the Who's In It? because I really like that guy.)

Writer/director Matthew Bright made it really tough to root for Vanessa unconditionally. She's had a really tough life and I empathize with her a lot, but she ends up hurting some people that I wish she hadn't (not Bob; he deserves everything). I feel like that's Bright's point though and I enjoyed the conundrum that he and Witherspoon put me in. Vanessa is a great character, even if she isn't a total hero.

Rating: Three out of five badass Reese Witherspoons.


Erik Johnson Illustrator said...

There was a sweet little old lady who was wardening Vanessa and the others on the prison bus. In my head canon, that was the grandmother she had never met.

Michael May said...

Nice. I like that a lot.


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