10 Items or Less is a hybrid of Nacho Libre and Spanglish directed by Moonlight Mile‘s Brad Silberling, and yes, it’s as unbearably cloying and uplifting as that description sounds. Indie tripe made by big-time Hollywood players, this sentimental comedy involves the oh-so-unlikely relationship between a once-popular actor (Morgan Freeman) and a grocery store checkout clerk named Scarlett (Paz Vega) who find themselves driving around Los Angeles together when Freeman’s thespian—visiting Scarlett’s place of employment to do research for an independent movie comeback role—gets a ride home from the feisty Spanish stranger. Contrived circumstances bring them together and convenient personality similarities make them friends, as actor and clerk realize that they share—and then help each other overcome—a paralyzing fear of commitment. This process of discovery involves playful jokes about movie-star obliviousness and vanity (the best of which is a running gag involving a bargain bin-consigned film starring Freeman and Ashley Judd) and scenes in which Silberling mimics Nacho Libre director Jared Hess’s infatuation with symmetrical visual compositions of funny-looking foreigners (here, Wes Anderson regular Kumar Pallana) scored to bouncy Latino music. There’s something desperately unfunny about Freeman’s gregarious but clueless character acting astonished (something doesn’t seem right here) at Target’s low prices and helping out at a car wash, just as there’s something awfully off-putting about the way 10 Items or Less delivers its homilies about courage, selflessness, and self-worth—namely, via adorable kids, cartoonishly mean ex-husbands, and Vega’s spunky-but-sweet routine. So cute is Silberling’s foray into micro-budget filmmaking that its title becomes not just a reference to Scarlett’s undesirable checkout lane, but also the name of a confessional game the duo plays in which each must list 10 things or less that they love/hate. It’s a diversion that, if expanded to accommodate 20 or 30 items, would also be custom-made for critics cataloguing the film’s myriad annoyances.
- 82 min
- Brad Silberling
- Brad Silberling
- Morgan Freeman, Paz Vega, Jonah Hill, Bobby Cannavale, Alexandra Berardi, Anne Dudek
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