When New Jersey detective Laurel Hester discovered she had lung cancer in 2004, she asked that her partner, Stacie Andree, receive her police pension benefits. Ocean County, N.J., legislators, known as freeholders, refused her request. The ensuing battle for equality and LGBT rights is taken up here in “Freeheld” starring Julianne Moore as Detective Hester and Ellen Page as Stacie Andree.
Although the story is sincere it is unlikely to win any prizes. For starters, the most memorable character in this important story of a courageous woman is a man; that’s a problem. The man in question is Michael Shannon, who plays Dane Wells, Laurel Hester’s police partner. He, Moore and Page all give excellent performances, but it’s Shannon’s character we follow as he is moved to crusade for these women and their right to the same benefits as any other member of the police family. Freeheld begins with Laurel and Stacie meeting at a basketball game. Their relationship progresses quickly, although it is marked by the secrecy Laurel maintains to keep her police colleagues from knowing her orientation.
The women buy a house, move in together and formalize their domestic partnership; the story begins around 2003, a decade before same-sex marriage is permitted in the state of New Jersey. oversee public policy, to decide if Laurel’s pension can go to her domestic partner. and the battle is on. Laurel’s police partner is ready to fight for her. Also in her corner is same sex marriage advocate Steven Goldstein, a loud, proud, outspoken gay man (Steve Carell, turning his flamboyance dial up to 11 for this role, to no avail. Eventually, all the macho policemen who initially refused to back Laurel’s cause are likewise on her side. It’s rousing and uplifting and all that, but it’s also predictable and flat lacking in highs and lows; the emotion seems to be missing. Neither Laurel’s declining health nor her eventual triumph over inequality will register much with viewers.
And you never forget that you’re watching a movie.
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Question: What is the name of the group who oversee public policy in this movie? Email your answer and name to garrywest@ ncable.net.au. Winners will be notified.