It’s 2006, The director of Land of the Lost (2009) and Casper (1995), Brad Silberling has directed Morgan Freeman in what might be his best performance yet. If I’m right in believing that It truly is Morgan Freeman’s best performance, then that’s too bad, since as always with films chosen in The Forgotten, no one saw it.
An actor (Freeman) is on a location scout for a character he may potentially play in an American indie-drama that’s about to be made. He is driven to the other side of town (a Latino neighborhood) where he spends an hour or two sussing out his character’s environment, personality and motivations. At this stage he’s not even sure if he wants the part. The man (played with energy by a younger Jonah Hill) who dropped him off in the neighbourhood doesn’t return to pick him up and Freeman is basically stranded….of all places in a rundown supermarket.
Whilst observing customers and employees, he comes across an aggressive yet determined checkout clerk, Scarlet (Paz Vega),who, of course, is in charge of the 10 Items or less counter. Why is she aggressive? Because luck has never been on her side, not once and her husband, the manager of the very same supermarket (Bobby Carnivale) is sleeping with the lazy checkout girl in the isle next to hers. The minute her shift is over, she is stuck with Freeman, who has no way of getting back to his nice house on the more prosperous side of Carlson. So as fate has decided it, their paths cross and a friendship grows.
He’s beyond fascinated with her and she’s merely trying to improve her existence in any way she can. Is their friendship easily formed? Not at all, but it’s one that changes more than just the course of their day. Connections are made, and what may be one of the sweetest friendships ever to be formed on-screen is given to us on a silver platter.
What may sound simple and contrived in the synopsis you just read, is anything but; and also has career defining performances from both Vega and Freeman. In most films Freeman is the almighty wise one with a voice that could melt ice caps (see March of the Penguins); yet here, he’s playing an actor that matches what many perceive him as – he is a performer. He is one whom many watch and admire, but he himself is stuck in an existential rut. Beyond the sophisticated looking man on the VHS cover of just about every made-for-TV cop drama found in gas stations for 5.99, who is he? What character does he play when not on a film set?
10 Items has Freeman play a charming yet lost individual; while Vega is all but lost, yet still struggles to acknowledge it. Their chemistry is beyond words. Very few films have such a delicate approach to actors and their distinguishing of characters and observations. They’re more than just vessels or heads on a DVD cover – they’re storytellers, motivators and more. 10 Items or less, whilst being the ultimate character drama, shines a light on the role actors play (pardon the pun) in films and how they exist when not in front of a camera. Society is their audience, and the show’s all on them.
What may be one of the sweetest yet insightful drama’s you’ll see for quite some time, 10 Items Or Less defies cliché yet reinforces the joys of emotional evoking cinema, reminding us that human stories are beneficial ones, and that Morgan Freeman is more than just the guy who inspires Andy Dufrane, or narrates animal planet.
By Chris Elena