A well-known actor, who hasn't accepted a role in four years, is considering a project. The cousin of the director drives him to Archie's Ranch Market, in Carson, and drops him off to do a little research. He's fascinated by one of the checkers, Scarlet, a young woman from Spain with a preternatural ability to ring up items at the cash register. She hates her job, stuck at the 10 items or less lane. The actor chats her up, and when her shift ends, he asks for a ride. In the course of the afternoon, he helps her prepare for a job interview. She needs to have confidence, he needs to commit. Human contact, however brief, can change people. Written by
I'm a big fan of Morgan Freeman. 'The Shawshank Redemption' ranks at the top of my all-time favorite movies. But I have to admit that I have often wondered about his choice of roles. So many of his titles were big budget clichés with no heart. '10 Items Or Less' for me marks the return of Freeman to a role that truly showcases his considerable acting talents.
Freeman plays an unnamed, formerly big time Hollywood actor who hasn't worked in several years. He has been offered a part in an unspecified indi picture for which he is doing some research at a grocery store in a poor neighborhood in LA. After being stranded there by his flaky driver, Freeman is offered a ride home by checkout girl Scarlet (Paz Vega), whom he has semi-befriended. Before she can take him home, however, Scarlet has a big job interview she needs to get to, and Freeman agrees to tag along in exchange for the ride.
The movie follows Scarlet and Freeman to several locations, but the movie is really just a character piece about the interactions between the two. Freeman is the quintessential disconnected Hollywood type who hasn't heard of Target, and doesn't know his own telephone number or even what day of the week it is. He spouts wisdom from the Dalai Lama filtered thru his 'the whole world is but a stage' mentality, and repeatedly calls Scarlet's job interview an 'audition'. And yet he has a way with people, a way of affecting them that extends beyond his fame. He is a fan of humanity. He studies them, asks incessant questions about them, and delights in their quirks where others would simply be annoyed. In Scarlet, he sees the stubborn, proud loner that he was; he sees the man he used to be.
Scarlet, for her part, displays a fierce pride and sharp tongue that serve to hide her own insecurities about herself. Vega plays the role with a connection to Freeman that skates the line between an almost daughterly love and physical attraction, although she plays it beautifully and it's not at all as creepy as it sounds. But even as she feels her connection to Freeman grow, Scarlet has a keen eye for the reality of their different worlds and cuts thru Freeman's Hollywood bull*hit with a sharp pragmatism that refuses to accept anything but the truth.
The movie is smart, funny, and well written, with dialogue that is simple but effective. I read one IMDb review that said the lines were 'stilted', which I think is a misinterpretation of realistic human speech. There are no big soliloquies here, no deep soul searching moments. And so the trick is, I think, to show how people in ordinary, everyday life can forge connections with one another. And I think Freeman and Vega pull it off beautifully, painting a picture of a bond between two people that glitters like sun on the ocean, ethereal and elusive. Long after it's gone it lives on in your memories, tantalizing you with what might have been. OK, that was a bit flowery, but I really did like the performances and the movie. I would definitely recommend it.
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