Release Date: May 31, 2013 (Limited)
Currently Available on VOD Platforms
Director: Jay Gammill
MPAA Rating: NR
Film Pulse Score: 6.5/10
After spending the night out drinking and waking up with a hangover with only a slight memory of what happened the night before, the last thing twenty-something Jillian could have ever expected to be doing is working in an ice cream truck. That’s the predicament she faces when her best friend Nancy asks her to cover for her while she takes care of a family matter. Jillian isn’t exactly a people person. She is probably the last person you want to run a customer based service. That pretty much sums up how Jay Gammill’s entertaining indie comedy Free Samples begins.
There are many elements in this film that have been seen in countless others; especially ones dealing with directionless characters. It could be easily dismissed as recycled or rehashed but it shouldn’t thanks to one key factor that makes the material feel fresh. That factor would be the acting of Jess Weixler; probably best known for her star turn in the horror film Teeth. As written the character of Jillian can be a real bitch sometimes. She can be insensitive, condescending, dismissive, biting and seemingly uncaring. Weixler brings out the heart beneath that caustic exterior. She feels real. In some ways Jillian is reminiscent of Charlize Theron’s character from Young Adult but unlike her she does show the ability to change. As anticipated she has encounters with various customers with varying degrees of attitude. With each scenario you want to see how Jillian is going to handle the situation. What’s she going to say? What’s she going to do? Her actions range from amusing to pretty funny and that is primarily due to Weixler’s comic timing.
Working from a screenplay written by Jim Beggarly, Jay Gammill has crafted a simple, light but amusing little comedy that goes down fairly easy. Characters may seem familiar but thanks to the casting you can look past the archetypes. In addition to Weixler, Jesse Eisenberg appears as Jillian’s previous night’s stand, Jason Ritter stars as Wally a guy with some strange life long dreams and legendary Tippi Hedren as an aging actress who pays Jillian’s ice cream truck a visit. Each manages to make their characters memorable and thanks to Beggarly’s writing each has something to be remembered for.
The title of the film is Free Samples and it may be deemed heavy-handed to say so but the film not only refers to the ice cream but the people and experiences Jillian has over the course of the film. A sampling of what life has to offer, if you will. Customers are given a choice and in a round-about way Jillian is given that same choice. Instead of a flavor it’s about which path in life to choose. The choices she makes as she comes to her decision make for a fairly entertaining film. Choose. Choose wisely.