In 1998, Richard Price (Clockers) wrote a novel about a New Jersey mother who inflames a racial riot by claiming a black man stole her car with her four-year-old son in the back seat. The book was a long read (560 pages) that flew by on Price's ear for dialogue and knack for building tension. The movie, with a script by Price, sinks like a stone.
A very grace note is blunted by director Joe Roth, who displays no feel for the material. A skilled studio executive, Roth has directed two recent films (America's Sweethearts and Christmas With the Kranks) that indicate directing is not his vocation. Freedomland seals the deal. Roth takes three powerhouse actors — Julianne Moore as the mother, Samuel L. Jackson as the cop who interrogates her and Edie Falco as another woman who lost her son — and reduces their talents to rubble and their characters to screeching cliches.
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