10 Items or Less

Director: Brad Silberling

We’ve all heard about experimental cinema and stunts that had varying degrees of success from the disastrous reception of Steven Soderbergh’s Full Frontal to the sheer brilliance of numerous independent pictures shot in less than a month such as The Station Agent and Half Nelson. While Brad Silberling’s fifteen day adventure 10 Items or Less will never be held in the same company as the aforementioned acclaimed indie works, most likely due to some of the quality sacrificed by its sheer brevity, the film is nonetheless surprisingly worthwhile and one of the better sleeper offerings in recent memory, especially when one realizes that it takes place over the course of a day with two unlikely characters bonding in commercial American settings including car washes, Arby’s Restaurants and Target Stores. Most likely playing a fictitious version of himself (and indeed his character is simply called “Him”), Morgan Freeman is at his freewheeling and charismatic best as a once highly successful actor coming out of semi-retirement to research a role for a low-budget independent film about a grocery store manager. Dropped off in a deserted Los Angeles store, he becomes inspired by the mathematical talent and strong-willed personality of twenty-five year old clerk Scarlet (Paz Vega of Spanglish) and the two form an impulsive and oddly natural bond over the course of the day as she offers the stranded actor a ride home and he tags along on the rest of her errands as she drops her no-good cheating managerial boyfriend (Bobby Cannavale) and prepares for a secretarial interview. Freeman’s “Him” offers pearls of wisdom and mentions a few in-jokes that seem to reflect Freeman himself, name-dropping former real life costars Ashley Judd and Clint Eastwood and constantly being inspired by everyone he meets by trying to engage strangers in conversation. Some of the film’s highlights include Freeman basically playing jazz with his role—leading a group of car wash men in an improvised dance as they towel off a few cars and adopting the walk and mannerisms a la Chaplin of an elderly employee at a grocery store. While the film doesn’t offer enough in the long run to make us feel so invested that we want to know much more about either character, they’re both excellent and obviously having a ball and we're completely engaged. Hopefully this will lead to more work for Vega, who although unforgettable in Spanglish, was at times only relegated to an object of beauty whereas in Silberling’s hands, she’s a fully realized, complicated, messy, and ambitious twenty-something woman at a crossroads in her life.