Not Rated | 1h 50min | Comedy, drama | 23 August 2019 (USA)
Like the many twists and turns that medical transport driver Vic (newcomer Chris Galust) takes over the course of one day, the new indie comedy-drama “Give Me Liberty” drives around in the search of an identity. Directed by Russian-Jewish immigrant Kirill Mikhanovsky, this film is a passion project that wears its heart on its sleeve; heartfelt intentions, however, don’t always translate into interesting results.
Looking like a fatigued and exasperated young Leonardo DiCaprio, Galust’s character makes a critical decision to defy the orders of his superiors and chauffeur a raucous band of senior citizens to a funeral. This touches off a chaotic chain of events that causes him to veer further from his original plan.
But for the audience, what transpires are many drawn-out scenes of Vic driving folks around in his transport van.
A Character Salad
Many indie directors get trapped into trying to showcase lots of personalities, but end up with a disjointed character salad rather than anything intimate or memorable. Here, with such a vast array of characters bouncing in and out, as soon as I begin giving a hoot about someone or another, he vanishes from the film and never returns.
That is, I want to like some of the film’s quirky characters, but its bawdy bunch of seniors cracking jokes are entertaining for only so long before they wear out their welcome.
Without a decent amount of character development, no one stands out. On top of that, Galust isn’t a particularly fascinating lead. His lines seem almost dialed-in and laborious, as if he’s reading from an off-screen teleprompter.
A Heavy-Handed Touch
While the filmmakers were going for the heartfelt, quirky angle, the flimsy script punches way above its weight. In fact, the film comes off as preachy. The message can be identified early on: Live your life to the best of your abilities, even if you’re old, sick, or disabled.
And while a few scenes are heartfelt, particularly at the film’s beginning, by the end, everything seems contrived, hackneyed, and almost manipulative because we’re being hit on the head over and over by the message “Carpe diem,” and in sophomoric and forced ways. This just isn’t my idea of fun.
This message is not aided by the film’s aimless and rambling pace. Its comedic timing is way off, and sometimes things devolve into slapstick absurdity. Other jokes come off as phony and overdone, and many of these are repeated ad nauseam.
Technically, “Give Me Liberty” is all over the place. Although the film’s natural lighting looks nice, the jerky-cam cinematography is jarring. Its fast cutting (splicing together a bunch of quick shots in succession)—and there’s a lot of that—can only be used a certain number of times before it becomes disorienting.
I get that we’re supposed to feel the chaotic, disorderly nature of Vic’s life, but the film comes off as jumbled and incoherent with its lengthy, tedious driving scenes and almost spastic surges of dizzying shots.
I really wanted to like “Give Me Liberty,” as it seems to have its heart in the right place. However, it’s not the charming little indie comedy that I’d hoped it would be. Instead, I couldn’t become attached to any of its fleeting characters, and its comically anemic script and incoherent, jumbled pace made “Give Me Liberty” off-putting and regrettably forgettable.
‘Give Me Liberty’
Director: Kirill Mikhanovsky
Starring: Lauren “Lolo” Spencer, Chris Galust, Maxim Stoyanov
Running Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes
Release Date: Aug. 23
Rated: 1 1/2 stars out of 5