Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Live Free or Die

Unfortunately for Live Free or Die, the attempts at quirky humor were more tedious than fun. The concept was actually interesting and tightly woven, but the actual pacing of the film killed the redeeming qualities. I was mesmerised enough to stick with the film, certain that it would turn the corner. It never did. I hoped that it would pick up and deliver some profundity or capture my imagination some other way. But I was left lacking throughout until the ending left me feeling unfulfilled.

When I disparage the pacing in Live Free or Die, I accept the premise that good independent film can be quirky, slow-paced and still good. One of my favorite independent films, Lars and the Real Girl, is similarly paced and exceptionally quirky. But Lars' character touched me. The writing was subtle enough that the slow pacing didn't feel bogged down because I was gripped by the events and connected to the characters. I felt fulfilled with Lars. I felt as if the character was real and found myself touched by the outpouring of community support at a pretend funeral...a funeral that felt like the loss of a real person. In short, the characters mattered to me. I felt no such connection with the weakly developed and not so likable characters in Live Free or Die.

It wasn't the acting that killed the characters, either. I think Michael Rapaport is an excellent actor and always enjoy seeing him in films. He brings an edginess to his characters that I enjoy watching. He played a Police Officer in Live Free or Die, and was believable in the role. His character even delivered an excellent plot twist. But the convoluted story felt contrived and the characters never really connected, which seemed to be more a product of the writing than the acting. Gregg0 Kavet and Andy Robin are probably considered genius for their comedic writing on Seinfeld. The humor was not very evident in this film.

Aaron Stanford was excellently cast as a wannabe criminal named John Rudgate. Stanford was convincing as a two-bit hustler trying to convince people that he should be respected. Rudgate is more of a victim than a predator...his defensiveness has created a situation where he is forced to project toughness to cover his frailty. Those attributes were apparent in Stanford's performance. However, the character was mildly interesting but not engaging. I wanted to connect with Rudgate, but found his actions to be unbelievable and insipid. I guess Stanford was good with little to make his character relevant other than his performance. It didn't work for me. This film hinges on Stanford's character and I don't really think it was his fault that the character ended up being dull.

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