Basing films on documentaries isn't exactly new, but it's something that's happening with more regularity of late. This year has seen the middling Our Brand Is Crisis with Sandra Bullock - based on a fantastic fly-on-the-wall documentary of the same name - and Freeheld, an Oscar-winning short documentary by Cynthia Wade.
Julieanne Moore and Ellen Page are Laurel Hester and Stacie Andree, one a New Jersey detective and the other a mechanic, who form a unique relationship that seems relatively skewed in Moore's favour. Because of her job, Moore's character keeps the fact that she is a lesbian a secret from her colleagues, headed by the always-reliable Michael Shannon, and downplays it with almost everyone she meets. However, when she's diagnosed with cancer, she needs to ensure that her pension goes to her registered partner. However, the freeholders - which have jurisdiction over police pensions and municipal funds - refuse to honour the agreement and thus begins a lengthy campaign.
Written by Ron Nyswaner, who also wrote Philadelphia and the criminally-underrated TV series Ray Donovan, Freeheld should have been a lot more than what it was. Julieanne Moore's performance is admirable, as is Michael Shannon and Ellen Page's. However, the direction in the film is so workaday that it almost feels like a TV movie that would play on the Hallmark channel. Steve Carrell, who turns up in the middle of the second act, gives it something of a jolt that pushes it on and is reasonably entertaining as the loud-and-proud activist. However, there's just not enough to keep you engaged or interested. The story follows a well-worn path and there are no moments that capture your attention for long enough to make an impact.
It's a shame because there's an interesting story there, but the bland directing of Peter Sollett - who directed the equally bland Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist - will put eventually put you to sleep.