10 Items or Less (2006)
Morgan Freeman, Paz Vega. Writer, director Brad Silberling.
Freeman plays Morgan Freeman, a fading movie star researching a role by observing a neighborhood grocery store in a small southern California town. (Details like flaking green paint cue squalor, with no cars in the lot and few customers, but the spacious, well-lighted store has an enormous inventory. Odd). Freeman meets checkout clerk Vega, from whom he bums a ride home, but then decides to help her get ready for an interview for an office job. They have several innocuous adventures. The light comedy arises from mild cultural differences and Freeman’s fish-out-of-water disorientation as he sees the life of a working class Latina through the eyes of a movie actor. More of that could have produced a strong satire rather than a weak buddy movie. Vega is not as striking as Penelope Cruz, which will help her avoid stereotypy, but she is good looking, her Spanish accent just as charming, and her acting outstanding. A rising star, I would say. Freeman’s character is undeveloped, making him goofy, not really engaged in the relationship. Vega goes through a mild character change, winning self confidence and determination to succeed. Freeman is untouched by anything. Dramatic tension, such as it is, comes from tiny banalities (Is the shirt the right color or not? Omigod!). Music is good: Mexican Hip-hop and Paul Simon. Vega is the big draw, and the humor makes this modest slice of life watchable. DVD extras on “the making of” are informative.