2012 Heartland Film FestivalRating: 3 of 5 yaps
A look at the day in a blase 20-something, “Free Samples” coasts by much like its main character.
Jillian (Jess Weixler) has dropped out of Stanford law school, hoping to get a handle on her life but finding herself with a hangover in the window of an ice cream truck for a friend (Halley Feiffer), handing out free samples to a concoction that may or may not be ice cream.
She is in a perpetually bad mood, throwing snark out at virtually everyone who approaches and hoping to remain detached from the world, displaying angst in that way that only post-adolescent malcontents can.
She encounters a random group of people, including freeloaders who want to usurp her rather strict rules (one sample per person; they can have vanilla or chocolate but not both). Jillian is as unhappy to be there as her clientele are to receive her, and encounters with a homeless woman and bratty kids are often fun and charming, but could be moreso.
Jesse Eisenberg (from “The Social Network”) pops in and out as “Tex,” whom Jillian meets in a bar and may have had a one-night stand with, and Tippi Hedren (yes, THAT Tippi Hedren) plays a regular client whom Jillian forms a bond with. She may have been an actress in her younger days, or she may just be crazy.
The film’s high point is a sequence where an appointment-dweller living nearby who is bothered by the truck’s music, citing an ordinance that only trucks in motion are allowed to play music over loudspeakers.
Weixler does a decent enough job of moving through the film, but without another character to move the film along it seems to amble along for much of its running time, and the film’s conclusion doesn’t grab the audience as much as it could. The writing could be a little sharper and more on point, and it would have been nice for Jillian to have something more concrete to be annoyed/angry/upset about.
“Free Samples” is passably entertaining at times, a sometimes-breezy look at post-college malaise, but could use another taste-test or two.