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Moore and Jackson Star in 'Freedomland'

Race and politics add to the tension of a detective's search for a kidnapped child in Freedomland, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Julianne Moore. The film's screenplay was written by Richard Price; the story is based on his novel of the same name.

05:38

Other segments from the episode on February 17, 2006

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, February 17, 2006: Interview with Richard Thompson; Review of the film "Freedomland."

Transcript

DATE February 17, 2006 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
NETWORK NPR
PROGRAM Fresh Air

Filler: By policy of WHYY, this information is restricted and has
been omitted from this transcript

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Review: Film critic David Edelstein review "Freedomland," starring
Samuel L. Jackson and Julianne Moore
DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

The writer Richard Price moves back and forth between novels and screenplays
set on the battlegrounds of modern cities. He adapted his book "Clockers" in
1995 for director Spike Lee. Now he brings his novel "Freedomland" to the
screen with stars Samuel L. Jackson and Julianne Moore. Film critic David
Edelstein has a review.

DAVID EDELSTEIN reporting:

"Freedomland" revolves around a carjacking. It's near an African-American
housing project, and there's a four-year-old white boy in the car. And you
can sense from the start that this isn't one of those garish child-in-peril
scenarios that unfolds almost nightly in TV series. For one thing, the
mother, Brenda Martin, played by Julianne Moore, takes an eternity to come out
with the news that the car contained her son. She seems beyond hysteria.
She's in a sort of infernal fugue state. She stumbled into an emergency room
with her palms bloodied, and it falls to the detective in charge, Lorenzo
Council, played by Samuel L. Jackson, to squeeze every last drop of
information from her. The scene is so frantic that it's almost absurd.
Council is trying to get out an all-points bulletin, but Brenda won't help.
And even his asthma seems to conspire against him.

(Soundbite from "Freedomland")

Mr. SAMUEL L. JACKSON: Brenda, your kid, he's a boy, right? How old?

Ms. JULIANNE MOORE: Four.

Mr. JACKSON: What's his name?

Ms. MOORE: Cody.

Mr. JACKSON: OK. Cody. Cody. How old is he?

Ms. MOORE: I just told you!

Mr. JACKSON: Oh, that's right. That's right. Slow down, Lorenzo. Slow
down. Four years old. OK. Does he have a car seat?

Ms. MOORE: No.

Mr. JACKSON: Seat belt?

Ms. MOORE: No.

Mr. JACKSON: Front or back?

Ms. MOORE: Of?

Mr. JACKSON: The car!

Ms. MOORE: Oh. Back!

Mr. JACKSON: OK. Hold on. Hold on. Hold on one second.

This is special investigator 15 to base. Stand by for emergency transmission.

Unidentified Man: Base go.

Mr. JACKSON: That carjack in the south district, notify all units that there
is a male child in the car. A four-year-old Caucasian? Caucasian male, four
years old in the back seat.

Man: Received.

Ms. MOORE: He was asleep. He was--he was--he was sick. He was...

Mr. JACKSON: Hold on, Brenda. Hold on. Hold on. Hold on.

The child is or was asleep, so he may or may not be visible to pursuing
officers. Stand by for further description.

Man: Received.

Ms. MOORE: I tried to tell him.

Mr. JACKSON: What was he wearing, Brenda?

Ms. MOORE: Uh, uh...

Mr. JACKSON: What's he wearing? Your son! What is your son wearing?!

Ms. MOORE: He had a---he had a--he had a--he had a white, white, white shirt
on. A white--white shirt on.

Mr. JACKSON: White or dark?

Ms. MOORE: White!

Mr. JACKSON: Hair?

Ms. MOORE: Short in front and--and long in black--back!

Mr. JACKSON: Wearing pants or jeans?

Ms. MOORE: Pajama bottoms with stripes.

Mr. JACKSON: Pajama bottoms with stripes. OK. Hold on. Hold on.

(End of soundbite)

EDELSTEIN: It has become all too common for moviemakers to exploit the
suffering and death of children to ratchet up the dramatic stakes. But
"Freedomland," which is adapted by Richard Price from his own novel, earns the
right to its grueling narrative. It's not a great movie. It's often clumsy
and overwrought, but it has a great theme, how social neglect trickles down
through desperate and despairing parents to the next generation. The film has
two equally important strands: the hunt for the child and the virtual
occupation of the projects by the police, who are convinced that they can
bully the whereabouts of the carjacker out of the residents. It falls to
Jackson's Lorenzo Council to keep the largely white cops and the black
residents of the projects from a bloody melee.

The director is the former studio boss Joe Roth, who unfortunately has a
sledge-hammer touch. The camera in the opening scene in the projects is all
jitter and swerve. It's so hyped up that there's nowhere to go for the
climax, with the African Americans standing nose to nose with cops in riot
gear. The leads hold the movie together. Jackson keeps his features rigid.
He channels all his emotions through those eyes, which can incinerate or
beseech. He's matched by Edie Falco, as an activist who lost her own child a
decade earlier. Falco's hair is darkened and chopped short, and she purges
all the music from her voice. She plays a woman turned by grief into a
high-functioning automaton. During the search for the boy in the woods, she
gets Brenda alone and performs a kind of psychic surgery. It's not an
interrogation. It's almost an incantation that gets inside Brenda's head.
The director doesn't do enough to protect Moore in her climactic scene. The
camera is too close, but Moore hits notes of despair that made me feel for
her. As an actress and a mother, I mean, having to go to that place.

"Freedomland" builds to a disclosure so wrenching that I literally couldn't
listen to it. I'm not boasting of my sensitivity, only suggesting that it
might upset people to the point where they'll regret having seen the movie. I
didn't regret it. I even forgave it it's four different endings because it's
clear that Price wants to wring every last drop of hope out of the horror. In
Price's most recent fiction, the social reformer's zeal exists side by side
with the novelist's strive to document how things work in a dead-end economy.
What gets his narrative their urgency and their drama is how the novelist in
him constantly tests the reformers' faith. He goes to the worst places
imaginable and tries to map the way out.

BIANCULLI: David Edelstein is film critic for New York Magazine.

(Soundbite of Ray Barretto song)

BIANCULLI: We'll close with music by the popular and widely recorded conga
player Ray Barretto. He died today. Last month, he was named one of the
National Endowment for the Art's jazz masters of 2006. He's undergone heart
bypass surgery in January and then had pneumonia. Ray Barretto was 76. This
1958 recording helped establish him. It's "Manteca" with pianist Ray Garland.
For Terry Gross, I'm David Bianculli.

(Soundbite of "Manteca")
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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