I had heard about this movie for quite a while, hearing that it was “wild,” while at the same time not knowing very much about it. I knew it was about Reese Witherspoon accepting a ride from Kiefer Sutherland as a sexual predator or something, and that it vaguely followed the Little Red Riding Hood story. What it turned out to be was a lot more galvanizing and surprisingly, but wrapped up to a little less than I had hoped for.
The movie begins with R. Crumb-lite drawings showing little red riding hood being chased by the big bad wolf. The crotch of her panties are notably visible in several of the drawings. Then we see Reese as Vanessa Lutz in her speech class, trying to sound out the sentence “the cat drinks milk.” Before watching, I didn’t know that Reese was supposed to be total illiterate white trash in this, but she is, and this movie takes place in the world of desperate, uneducated girls and juvenile detention centers, etc. We see Reese go home with her black boyfriend, wherein she encounters Amanda Plummer as her mom desperately prostituting herself in the middle of their somewhat suburban street. She goes home to her hot, muscular, tattooed Meth-addict stepdad Larry who sexually abuses her, but in a few minutes Mom is arrested. Amanda Plummer KICKS ASS during her arrest sequence, brought into the house as the police search and she and the hot stepdad freak out on whatever drugs they’re on as they’re packed up and taken away. Anyway, Reese decides she’s going to stay at her grandma’s, whom she has never met and is only vaguely sure of where she is. She handcuffs her social worker to the bed in order to escape from her. Go Reese!
Now If you want to watch this movie it’s probably better that you know as little of what’s going to happen, so I suggest you stop about now. You can skip ahead to after the spoiler mark where we begin talking about the movie as a whole. But know that this is a pretty interesting and surprising film with a great performance by Reese and an interesting milieu that isn’t often explored in a such a straightforward and nonjudgmental way.
SPOILERS > > >
So Reese has to get out of Dodge, and she sees her boyfriend briefly, who gives her a gun. In exchange, Reese gives him a teddy bear, saying “Here, take this.” She doesn’t get far before her car breaks down, and she accepts a ride from Kiefer Sutherland, who is coming on all nice and understanding, claiming to be a youth counselor or something. He eventually gets her to open up about her life, wherein she says one of my favorite lines: “I guess I do got trauma, huh?” He coaxes her into describing sex with her hot Meth-addict stepdad, saying “I swear he was going [to the bathroom] in my mouth,” which causes Kiefer to ask her “Did you feel that you’d been transformed into a human urinal?” He then wants Reese to repeat those words. So she begins to get the sense that he’s the I-5 Killer, who we have heard mentioned on the news, and he soon pulls out a razor and confirms that in fact he is. He says that people like Reese are “garbage people” and that he’s ridding the world of them. But don’t forget: Reese has a gun! She makes Kiefer pull off, then she shoots him and leaves him for dead.
But get this: he’s still alive. He gets taken in by the police and she is arrested. Brooke Shields shows up as his wife, saying she wants Reese prosecuted as an adult and how trash like her should pay. Reese gets sent to Juvie [there’s a bit of content in here about the issue of whether juveniles should be prosecuted as adults], where she tangles with some other girl and fashions a knife out of a toothbrush and saran wrap: a skill I was glad to learn. Shit, I could write this movie off as an educational expense. Anyway, the girls make an escape at a gas station, wherein, upon parting, Reese says to the girl she tangled with earlier: “I’m sorry for busting your nose that time. I was pretty upset that day.”
I won’t give everything away. Suffice to say that it does follow the general arc of Little Red Riding Hood, and it does end at grandma’s house.
< < < SPOILERS END
Reese Witherspoon’s performance is wonderful and really the best reason to see this movie. Not only is she completely convincing in the role, she I so CONSISTENT with her characterization that it really works. Kind of the same quality that she brought to her deserved Oscar-winning role as June Carter Cash in Walk the Line. Her performance here [in Freeway] is one of those turns that can make you a fan of an actress for life. I know she was noticed for this, but her performance was so great I’m surprised she didn’t get even more acclaim.
Other than that this film is consistently interesting, but didn’t really add up to much or leave me with much of anything. I am beginning to realize that the amount of movies I watch is sort of starting to make me blasé toward them. That is, I can tell that if I watched maybe only one movie a week, I think I would be a lot more impressed by this. So take that as you may. For me it was all interesting and offered a view into a different world, it just didn’t add up to all that much. I didn’t feel an overall thematic statement being made, and the red riding hood thing is somewhat amusing—I guess—though I don’t see what it really adds to the movie. In fact, it kind of detracts, because you essentially know what’s going to happen at the end [a problem also faced by the Hansel and Gretel-themed Whoever Slew Auntie Roo]. And that makes me feel like “well then why do I have to watch it to the end at all?”
Yeah, I liked Reese’s performance a lot, but other than that it’s hard for me to drum up much enthusiasm for it. Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m jaded. Maybe the child in me has died. Or maybe there’s really just not that much to it.
PS: I ended up watching it again months later, and enjoyed it much more and found it MUCH funnier.
If you enjoy tales of white trash and / or like Reese Witherspoon. In any case, it won’t be a waste of time.