Those who have only known Reese Witherspoon since her career change to “
’s Sweetheart” with the Legally Blonde movies and subsequent work will be in for a bit of a shock to see one of her earlier, grittier movies. She stars as Vanessa Lutz, a fifteen year old America slum girl with a crappy family life. Her mother Ramona (Amanda Plummer from Pulp Fiction) is a drug addict and prostitute. Ramona’s live in boyfriend Larry (Michael T. Weiss from The Pretender) has sex with Vanessa when her mother isn’t around. Vanessa’s not thrilled by it, but she’s not opposed to it, either. The only good in Vanessa’s life is her boyfriend Chopper, played by Bokeem Woodbine. L.A.
One day Ramona gets busted by the cops for prostitution. When they come to her home they find Larry and Vanessa in the middle of things. The cops haul both adults to jail and turn Vanessa over to Child Services. She tricks the social worker and steals her car. She stops to see Chopper before she leaves. She’s going to try to get to her grandmother’s house in northern
. Chopper gives her his gun for protection. After she leaves, though, a rival gang comes by and kills the defenseless Chopper. To complete her run of bad luck, the car breaks down on the freeway. California
A man in an SUV pulls over to offer his help. He tells her the car is dead, but he can give her a ride. He introduces himself as Bob Wolverton and he is played by Kiefer Sutherland. He engages Vanessa in conversation, lets her know that he works with children in dealing with their psychological problems, and soon has Vanessa spilling her guts about her horrible home life. Their conversations get pretty explicit, but Wolverton insists that this is a good thing; by suppressing these things that just makes them worse.
Eventually Vanessa catches on that Wolverton is not who he says he is; that he’s doing this as some sort of sexual turn on. He reveals that it’s not just that; he’s the I-5 serial killer that has been preying on stranded women. Far from being afraid of him, Vanessa ridicules him. This pisses him off, and he tries to attack Vanessa. He makes the mistake of thinking that she is stupid. She’s not stupid; she’s just uneducated. She gets the upper hand, and using the gun Chopper gave her, she seriously f*cks up Wolverton and leaves him for dead.
She is quickly arrested and freely admits to shooting him. She is shocked to find out that Wolverton is going to survive. She tells the cops he’s the serial killer they have been looking for, but they don’t believe her. Wolverton is an upstanding citizen with no criminal record and a perfect wife (Brooke Shields) to stand by him, while Vanessa is a juvenile delinquent who has been in constant trouble. She is sent to a youth detention center. While there she meets some now familiar faces. Look for Brittany Murphy and Alanna Ubach in early roles as fellow detainees. Also look for two twin girls who aren’t twins in real life. They are played by Monica and Leanna Creel. Riddle: when are identical looking sisters with the same birthday not twins? When they are two of a set of triplets. With their sister Joy Creel they appeared in quite a few different shows and movies in the 90s, most notably the last couple of Parent Trap sequels. Reportedly, the filmmakers initially approached twins Brittany and Cynthia Daniel from the Sweet Valley High TV series, but they turned the roles down. Had they accepted that probably would have messed with a lot of people’s heads at the time.
After some time has passed, Vanessa manages to escape from the authorities and resumes her trip to her grandmother’s. Wolverton hears about her escape, and figuring where she is headed, he goes there in order to get his revenge on her. You can probably guess that when Vanessa arrives she finds that the person in her grandma’s bed has, ahem, larger features than her grandmother. Vanessa’s reaction – “Them’s some big ugly f*ckin’ teeth you got, Bob.”
In case you might not pick up on the Little Red Riding Hood story, the opening credits feature illustrations done by Robert Crumb that tell a twisted version of the tale itself. Writer/director Matthew Bright also did a non-sequel titled Freeway 2: Confessions of a Trickbaby. I have not seen it, but it is a similarly twisted telling of the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale. It doesn’t star any of the people from this film, although Michael T. Weiss appears as a different character.
As you can probably tell from this description, and from the initial NC-17 rating for language, Freeway probably isn’t a movie you want your youngest ones to be listening to. It’s not for adults that have a delicate disposition, either. It’s not gory, but it does deal with some disturbing subject matter. It does it in a comedically twisted way, though, so I never found the topics too much to take. Of course, I like twisted humor, so I might have liked this movie more than others will. (It got two thumbs up from Siskel and Ebert, though.) If you are looking for some demented humor of your own, then I highly recommend this film to you.
Chip’s Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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