Tuesday, March 17, 2009

"10 Items or Less" (2006) - Movie Review

The odds of a Hollywood big shot like Morgan Freeman meeting a regular store clerk in a grocery shop are far less and far less is the interaction they have. Keeping aside the cynicism “10 Items or Less” is a simpleton film. It is that easy drive on a Wednesday afternoon. While the busy bees drool the cubicle cages and the empty lanes are packed with housewives in Walmart super centers, the roads are sparsely filled with an air of reeking laziness but an odd sense of relaxation too. That is the day the nameless character played by Morgan Freeman and Scarlet by Paz Vega take a small drive around the suburbs of LA.

A known veteran actor rides along with a fairly young and casual man Packy (Jonah Hill) on a typical van suiting a low budget film. That scene is the most important for the film which follows through as it becomes the tone for rest of the film. While Packy clearly digs the actor and the actor who loves his job kind of acknowledges it. He has not worked in four years and wobbles on committing to this project for an young director, the cousin of Packy. Whether Freeman plays himself does come up but he definitely takes the trait associated with him to this film. Packy plays a cassette which is an audio book with a very similar voice to Freeman. The actor denies he did it and does with a good reason. See he is the voice of “The Shawshank Redemption” and he tells how the reader in the audio fails the content and rhythm. He does a sample and it is a spoof, a parody, a tribute and a brilliant comic moment to kick off the film.

While being dropped off in a neighbourhood he has no idea of, he enters the grocery shop and begins to capture the characters he see for the film. He sees a disgruntled but smart and fast clerk on the 10 Items or Less lane. She knows she is too good for the job and vents her frustration on this menial job towards the customer. She looks at the basket and taps fast on the old and breaking cash counter to come up with a number. If she has miscalculated, she can always get them to buy a milk. This obviously attracts the actor and he begins to converse. She knows who he is and with a couple of nice observations and free judgments he makes, Scarlet the clerk while not giving the strings begins to continue the conversation.

The actor is a man befriending everyone and becoming every one. He is smooth talker and a friendly man. He accepts the remaining stardom he has and not really proud of a block buster again using the Freeman real life actor in this. There was a time when he did multiple of films of similar nature with Ashley Judd and they use it for the script. Everywhere he stops by at the video section of a gas station or stores, he sees his film in discounts and two for one sale. He hides them behind. Having knowing the philosophies of life, he has not seen a thing on the real world. He stares at awe at a Target store and does not have a clue whom to call when left in the grocery shop. He is a man of every one with not knowing any one deep enough. He has been too busy enacting other characters that he missed their real feelings towards him. Yet he says to have managed a good marriage with kids but cannot find the beat in his string of long gap in his career.

The regular toughness of the livelihood becomes the story of this film. Both are in troubled world of not too much happening and the missing drive to get things done. The actor sticks in to study her and in a way likes her as he says that he sees him in her. That is not the formula line of a fatherly figure but a serious observation of a seasoned actor and a problem existing in the young crowd of coming days including me. Thirty is a big deal and the decline of mental age is so steep. Whether it is the life finishing off seeing way more things than necessary or the early acceptance of the death of youth before even it gets started are few reasons I could think of. Scarlet represents that generation though she is in more financially backed down situation than the norm crowd. But financial constraint is just a part of the problem. The real problem is the miscellaneous expenses we put to tally the account. That expense is the waste of the precious time life provides for us.

I make it sound way more serious film than it actually is. It is a very light hearted and casual film which was shot in 15 days. It has a formula which becomes a far better film by the acting of Freeman and Vega. It becomes a much better film in the writing and direction of Brad Silberling. The working charm of “10 Items or Less” is that it sees life very seriously but also takes it lightly as it comes. It is comforting, careful and correct in its depiction beyond its cinematic routines and doubtful coincidences.

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