10 Items or Less

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10 Items or Less
Review (9/10)
(By Ron Henriques)

Morgan Freeman is perhaps one of the most brilliant actors of our time. He deserves a better and more recognized status than the one he's earned in his career, yet as many actors come and go he shows no signs of slowing down or fading into obscurity. "10 Items or Less" is no doubt a creative exercise for a person of Freeman's talents; something he did to probably fill a gap in his schedule. But he no doubt had plenty of fun making this picture and that can be more rewarding than name recognition or super-star status. Freeman portrays a character much like Morgan Freeman: a respected and familiar actor who is known for roles in films starring Ashley Judd or Clint Eastwood. There's a nice running gag where a used video-tape of a fictional film he made with Judd keeps popping up and he even refers to Eastwood's advice on his tailoring.

Having been absent from the game for four years (an eternity for actors), Freeman is eager to get back to work and embarks on a research project for an indie film much like this one. He's up for a role as a manager of a convenience store and so the production sends a PA to drop him off at "Archie's Ranch Market" for a little research. Though it may appear as an average hole-in-the-wall business, to Freeman, it's an environment filled with details that will aid him in his performance. Nothing catches his eye more strongly that that of Scarlett (Paz Vega), a sharp-tongued cashier who mans a register in the "10 items or less" lane. Though he's fascinated by her sassy attitude she is only counting the minutes until she gets off work. As luck would have it the PA fails to pick Freeman up at the designated time and without a cell hone he has no way of contacting his "people" and alert them to where he is. Being the Good Samaritan, Vega offers him a ride and so begins their odyssey together.

Freeman and Vega's journey takes them from the city of Carson to the aisles of Target and the suburbs of Brentwood. Freeman also coaches overachiever Vega to embrace her inner leading lady and apply various acting methods to different aspects of life. She's on her way to an interview for a secretarial position and he helps her achieve a quick make-over. In a performance that borders on self parody, Freeman plays an actor that's so pampered and removed from the real world that he confronts the world of the Target department store with the wide-eyed surprise of a child. He can't believe the store's low prices nor is he aware of his own home phone number. (Continuously changed for security measures of course.) Vega's character on the other hand is a bit too familiar, resembling the many caricatures of sassy immigrant beauties that we've seen in film, time and time again. Yet she shares a remarkable chemistry with Freeman, reminiscent of the relationship between Murray and Johansson in "Lost in Translation." Much like that film, this is a feature not about plot, but filled with brilliant characterizations and establishing serene mood. Freeman and Vega's conversation on the hood of her car as they share a roast beef sandwich is cinematic in its own way. Brad Siberling, who helmed such commercial fare as "Lemony Snicket" or "City of Angels?, would like you to believe that he wrote and directed this picture after being inspired by Italian Neo-realist films. While he has provided some interesting material for Freeman and Vega to work with, it's their talent as performers that have fleshed out the characters and brought forth a film that's simple, engaging and enjoyable.

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