Review: Freeloaders (2011)

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Cast: Josh Lawson, Dave Foley, Jane Seymour
Director: Dan Rosen
Country: USA
Genre: Comedy
Official Trailer: Here


Editor’s Note: Freeloaders opened in limited release on January 11th

Would the sheer immensity of a show business fortune motivate one therewith blessed to share the wealth with friends of old? Such is the supposition of Dan Rosen’s Freeloaders, an ill-mannered comedy that casts Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz as a warped version of himself, taken advantage of by the six titular acquaintances whose multi-year “housesitting” residence in his LA mansion is put to an end when he announces his intention to marry, sell the home, and uproot his life—and in the process theirs too—to move to New York.

Where it resides in such lazy, ineffective gag-making is where Freeloaders is at its worst, but luckily there are the oases of originality amidst its arid desert of debauchery, the fleeting moments of measured wit that offer sweet relief from its tiresome tedium.

freeloaders4Much as the premise might seem to suggest otherwise, it’s not Duritz who acts as star here, instead taking a production role and appearing intermittently for brief reactionary scenes. It’s the difficulties of the six—each of them jobless, unskilled layabouts—in finding new homes for themselves that form the bulk of the plot, as well as their heated exchanges with Duritz’s uptight estate agent. They are each of them relatively fresh-faced performers who, mostly unrecognisable, sink into their roles with aplomb and inhabit these characters with gusto. Rosen finds enough of a likeable leading man in Josh Radnor to tether us to this slacker band, his sly Fillion-esque charm just alluring enough to maintain our interests as he traverses the oft-bumpy comic terrain that constitutes the film’s plot.

Such a scenario as this lives or dies on the calibre of its comedy; the script, penned by Rosen and Dave Gibbs, is something of a zombie: stuck somewhere between the two, it has all the appearance and momentum of life, yet still there hangs the stench of death as various appendages fall victim to decomposition and decay. Much of its humour is resolutely petulant, drunkenness and sex the seeming heights of comic achievement thorough much of its running time. Where it resides in such lazy, ineffective gag-making is where Freeloaders is at its worst, but luckily there are the oases of originality amidst its arid desert of debauchery, the fleeting moments of measured wit that offer sweet relief from its tiresome tedium. Its best scene is a deftly-handled cameo from a name of such surprising fame as to render the sequence funny by its very existence: how in the world did an independent production such as this land a presence such as that?

Where the goodwill earned in their more earnest efforts expires, however, is in the film’s dreadful grasps at drama, the needless but unsurprising addition of a romantic subplot for Radnor and noodling scenes of montaged navel-gazing the biggest offenders of all.

freeloaders3Even though existing only in the minority of scenes, the quality of the film’s better jokes offer sufficient elevation to hold its head above water through the more dully derivative scenes. It’s a qualitative achievement above a quantitative one: Rosen and Gibbs can crack a fine joke, even if not quite as often as they should. Where the goodwill earned in their more earnest efforts expires, however, is in the film’s dreadful grasps at drama, the needless but unsurprising addition of a romantic subplot for Radnor and noodling scenes of montaged navel-gazing the biggest offenders of all.

Given the willingness of Rosen and Gibbs’ script to flirt here and there with more risqué comic subjects, it’s a shame to see their narrative restricted to such tightly-bound parameters, their flares of inventive humour restrained by the unaccommodating safety of their story. To plot the entire causal and emotional arc of the film would be a task well within the ability of any child to complete; in sticking firmly to such a well-traversed, clear-to-see path, the writers deprive their achievements a venue for display, leaving the things they get right obscured by the creaky, lumbering inevitability of their three-act structure. Freeloaders does much to dodge the pitfalls so open to comedies of this crass calibre; it’s a great disappointment to see it’s a structural trap in which the film is eventually caught, energetically wriggling but far beyond rescue.

[notification type=”star”]54/100 ~ MEDIOCRE. In sticking firmly to such a well-traversed, clear-to-see path, Freeloaders deprives its achievements a venue for display, leaving the things it gets right obscured by the creaky, lumbering inevitability of its three-act structure.[/notification]

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About Author

Ronan Doyle is an Irish freelance film critic, whose work has appeared on Indiewire, FilmLinc, Film Ireland, FRED Film Radio, and otherwhere. He recently contributed a chapter on Arab cinema to the book Celluloid Ceiling, and is currently entangled in an all-encompassing volume on the work of Woody Allen. When not watching movies, reading about movies, writing about movies, or thinking about movies, he can be found talking about movies on Twitter. He is fuelled by tea and has heard of sleep, but finds the idea frightfully silly.

  • Overall the movie isn’t too bad & kills time, but that’s about it. The story is predictable with no real surprises and there’s no real laugh out loud moments.

    The cast are all pretty good but there’s just not a whole lot for them to do.

    Wait for TV.