Last week I watched Freeway, a rather bleak, black comedy based on Little Red Riding Hood, but set in modern times. Reese Witherspoon stars as the lost girl, doing her best to evade a wolfish serial killer (played by Keifer Sutherland) and get to her grandma’s trailerpark. Personally I could see where the jokes were supposed to be, but they were a little too mean for me to actually laugh out loud at. I guess it’s more “funny peculiar” than “funny ha-ha”. The film picked up some very favourable reviews when it was released, including a thumbs-up from Siskel & Ebert, but I can understand why some Witherspoon fans on Amazon would want to warn their sorority sisters away from it. Overall it was an interesting and engaging watch, mainly thanks to the quality of the cast, and their heartfelt performances. There’s something fascinating about seeing Witherspoon, who is probably most famous these days for playing loveable whitebread types, throw her all into the role of a foul-mouthed, juvenile delinquent with anger management issues… especially when she faces off against a homicidal Latina inmate played by Alanna Ubach, who would later play her BFF ‘Serena’ in the Legally Blonde flicks.
I first noticed Ubach in The Brady Bunch Movie, where she played Marcia’s smitten lesbian sidechick, ‘Noreen’. She steals every scene she’s in, gets some great jokes, and even gets to play the chivalrous heroine, punching out a d-bag who insults the eldest Brady daughter’s honour. Sadly her character wasn’t brought back for the sequel, so it was great to see her pop up again in the first LB… even if she was still consigned to sidechick status. Apparently she appears in the Ben Stiller slapstick-delivery-system Meet the Fockers, and wacky food-abuse comedy Waiting, but I haven’t seen either of them yet, and they aren’t very high on my must-watch list. She also does a lot of voice-over work for cartoons, but hasn’t really had a breakout starring role so far… despite the fact that she has great comic skills and tons of energy, and has a good range from perky cheerleader types to menacing (and kinda sexy) sociopaths.
In 2008 she performed a one-woman (off-Broadway) show entitled Patriotic Bitch, featuring seven characters from different economic and ethnic backgrounds. According to an interview with Ubach in the NY Daily News: “I wanted to write a show that showed all of these women connected to each other… we’re not digits, we’re not expendable. Everyone wants to better themselves. That’s the theme of the play.” It didn’t pick up an especially flattering review in Variety, but the reviewer never doubted her skills as a performer… they just found that some characters were more interesting and better observed than others, suggesting that a “shorter, tighter” version of the show might have been a bigger hit. As far as I can tell, it was her first venture into playwriting, so hopefully she can build on that foundation, and write more star vehicles for herself…?
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