Film Review: Freelancers Anonymous at FilmOut San Diego

There’s a disarmingly bright, cheerful tone to this goofy comedy, which is playing at FilmOut San Diego. Freelancers Anonymous taps into the current issue of underemployment, where employers cut hours and benefits, forcing people to take multiple jobs to make ends meet. Thankfully, director Sonia Sebastian and writers Lisa Cordileone and Amy Dellagiarino never get overly serious about this, keeping things very light while grounding the humour in likeable characters. They also nicely play the central characters’ lesbian sexuality as matter-of-fact.

Freelancers Anonymous

Cowriter Cordileone stars in the film as Billie, a Chicago-based office worker who is fed up with her increasingly dire job. Her boss (Alexandra Billings) is piling on extra work while reducing her pay and cancelling her health insurance. After an incident with a pot-laced edible, she dramatically quits. But now she’s in trouble because there are mounting bills for her upcoming wedding to her fiancee Gayle (Natasha Negovanlis), who works odd jobs out of their home. While looking for work, Billie joins a group of unemployed misfits and spots their potential: if they team up, they could create an app to help freelancers. But getting them to work together is a challenge, and Billie is afraid to tell Gayle about this. Meanwhile, Gayle is distracted by a tug-of-war with her controlling mother (Jennie McNulty) about their wedding day.

While the premise has a lot of resonance, the plot details are thoroughly ridiculous, especially since most of this plays out as a farce, complete with silly slapstick and full-on caper nuttiness in the final act. Much of what happens is pretty preposterous, including the simplistic idea that it’s easy to launch an app and make a living from it. There also should be a moratorium on gags about inadvertent cannabis highs. But the film is packed with random comical asides that are hilarious. And while the central conflicts could be resolved with just one honest conversation, at least the script doesn’t milk anything more than necessary, thankfully avoiding all but a hint of sentimentality.

In addition, the clashes between the characters feel unusually realistic, never overwrought for melodramatic effect. This makes the relationship between Billie and Gayle feel unusually honest, as both actresses are able to inject earthy comedy into even the zaniest moments. And the six actors playing Billie’s freelance cohorts each have some fun with their distinct characteristics, led by Jennifer Bartels as a hard-as-nails cynic, with terrific support from Mouzam Makkar, Amy Shiels, Megan Cavanagh, Cassandra Blair and Jamison Scala, who merrily steals his scenes in the film’s only proper male role.

In other words, there’s plenty to keep Freelancers Anonymous from dissolving into irrelevant fluff. Engaging characters and genuinely resonant themes easily hold the interest, even as the film seems designed merely to elicit a smile and the occasional chuckle. And the way these people are trying to make something of themselves at a pivotal point in their lives is actually rather inspiring.

3 stars

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Rich Cline

Rich Cline

Journalist
As a freelance journalist, Rich Cline has covered films and major events on five continents. The founding editor of Shadows on the Wall, he is vice chair of the London Film Critics' Circle, chair of the London Critics' Circle Film Awards, and a member of Fipresci, Online Film Critics Society and GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics. A native of Los Angeles, he grew up in Ecuador and has called London home since 1992.
Rich Cline

@shadowsrich

on a quest for meaning in the movies...
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