So many things pop into my mind regarding the new movie "Freeheld" starring Julianne Moore and Ellen Page. No doubt, living in Monmouth County and being a subscriber to the Asbury Park Press, I was well aware of this case a decade ago as it really did dominate the headlines.. Probably being a Monmouth County guy vs in Ocean County guy, I would skim the article but move along (not realizing it was a history making situation….my bad!). Story
I was very excited when I first heard of this movie starring Academy Award winner Julianne Moore and Academy Award nominee Ellen Page about the story of Ocean County Police Lieutenant Laurel Hester (Moore)and her partner Stacie Andree (Page). Hester, a decorated 20 year+ police officer becomes diagnosed with late stage cancer (2005) and the prognosis is very grim. She runs into the legal and socio wall of the county freeholders denying pension benefits to her partner because they are not a traditional/legal married couple in the eyes of the law (domestic partners on paper but effectively did not carry any legal weight.
So the movie is about this journey of their relationship, Hester's professional career, the illness and the subsequent "Fight for Justice". Folks, this film was outstanding and important!
So the three things I had in my mind coming out of the movie.
First, when I first heard of the movies name, I just assumed the name of the movie was "Freehold" just because it was a town that I knew but geographically has no affiliation with this story. Nowhere during the movie is it explained to me or that I comprehended the genesis of the title name "Freeheld" - Guess I could google or hope I didn't fall asleep (sure I didn't).
Secondly I wondered if it was possible for the Academy members (aka the Academy Awards) to award a Best Actress award two years in a row to Ms. Moore who plays another vibrant, professional woman who become decimated by a health issue.
"Still Alice" was a most impressive movie but I thought her portrayal of Lieutenant Hester was off the charts. She made us very much feel the pain of the job sexism; the homophobe reality of our society a decade ago; and boy did she bring us along for her pain and love in this true story.
Thirdly, I just love heroes, real honest to goodness; salt of the earth; under the radar heroes who would never ever see themselves in that role. However life situations and many more variables can create a story and a following of supporters that forces them to the top to lead. It is not a role they cherish or relish, but understand they are in a unique position to lead change.
Watching the grass roots effort come together person by person, with a few key opinion leaders enhancing the process and people strong enough not to go away and persevere beyond what most of us can accept was very moving. It was Lt. Hester's time and place in history do advocate for what is right and the love of her life. And how that fight inspired others to speak and advocate on a very sensitive issue was compelling.
I hopefully loved this film beyond the fact that it was set in my state of New Jersey. Her strength and the historical significance of the film made it very special