Dir/scr: Brad Silberling. US. 2006. 82mins.
The unpredictable career of Brad Silberlingtakes another left turn after the big budget spectacle of Lemony Snicket's A SeriesOf Unfortunate Events (2004) with his new feature 10 Items Or Less. More of a character-basedchamber piece than anything else, this virtual two-hander finds thewriter-director straying into the same territory as Before Sunset (2004). But while 10Items is less picturesque and less profound than the Richard Linklater Oscar nominee, it does feature terrificperformances from Morgan Freeman and Paz Vega.
Short and sweet, 10 Items is undeniably engaging but tooinsubstantial to generate significant box-office returns. A decent specialistrelease seems likely - domestically the film has been pencilled in forsimultaneous theatrical and DVD release - with international prospectsstretching to festival exposure and some mild theatrical potential.
Morgan Freeman is therevelation of 10 Items: rarely has heseemed as relaxed and charismatic as he does here, gamely playing a movie starnot a million miles removed from his own experience of the fame game. Generallyrequired to bring gravitas to countless authority figures, Freeman seems to bein holiday mode as he reveals a rare flair for comedy and proves to be as gooda sport as John Malkovich was in Being John Malkovich.
An unnamed movie star whohasn't worked in four years, Freeman is undertaking research for a comeback roleas a store manager in a low-budget independent feature. When one day his driverdoes not return, he turns to check-out girl Scarlet (Paz Vega) for assistance.Relishing the chance to enjoy the real world, Freeman winds up spending therest of the day with Scarlet as she confronts her errant husband (Bobby Cannavale) and prepares for an important job interview.They are two people who would never ordinarily meet but as they drive aroundLos Angeles, chat, swap confidences and share their hopes and fears for thefuture, their time together becomes one of those magical days that will neverbe repeated.
Although it feels like theconcept for some kind of reality TV series in which a major movie star isforced to survive without an entourage of minders and publicists, 10 Items matures into a touching,sweet-natured encounter. There is a palpable chemistry between Freeman and PazVega who brings a fiery independence to a twentysomethingcheck-out girl who only needs a few words of encouragement to raise herexpectations of life.
Pushed to fill its briefrunning time, 10 Items is a simplebut effective tale underlining Silberling'sversatility as a film-maker and the fact that a veteran performer like MorganFreeman can still surprise us with the range of his talent.