Julianne Moore and Ellen Page in a scene from Freeheld.
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page in a scene from Freeheld. Photos Contributed

Rumours of a double Oscar for Julianne Moore with new film

JULIANNE Moore could repeat her Oscars success following her acclaimed performance as an academic with early onset Alzheimer's in Still Alice last year.

For her latest outing, the actress stars alongside Ellen Page in Freeheld, based on a true story about a lesbian couple who have to fight for pension rights after Moore's character is diagnosed with lung cancer.

The film has sparked some "double Oscar" buzz at the Toronto Film Festival, where it debuted, with critics praising Moore's touching and strong performance.

The story is based on an Oscar-winning short documentary by Cynthia Wade, which tells of the fight by New Jersey police officer Laurel Hester - who had long kept her sexuality private for fears of repercussions at work - to have her pension benefits transferred to her partner Stacie Andree.

"I always saw it as a love story," says Wade.

"It was not only a love story between Laurel and Stacie. It was also a story about a community loving its members, about people who became unexpected activists when the political suddenly became personal for them."

The title Freeheld was chosen in reference to both New Jersey's election county officials and the emotional stakes of the situation for Hester and Andree.

"In a very real sense, Laurel was being held back by the freeholders," says Wade.

"But at the same time Laurel was being held close by Stacie - and being held up by the community. I was fascinated by all the different tensions between the words 'free' and 'held'."

In light of the recent US Supreme Court decision on gay marriage, Pete Sollett's film will remind audiences of how far the struggle for LGBT rights has come.

"I want a younger generation to see a community filled with compassion and a sense of justice coming together to do what's right for a public servant," says Wade.

"That's a great story to be told."

But critics say the film itself is not as good as Moore's performance.

Variety calls the film "unremarkable", while The Hollywood Reporter says the "harrowing trajectory feels like a variation replay of something we've seen from (Moore) in a superior version".

But it is not uncommon for actors to win an Oscar for films that have been deemed inferior to their standout performances. Moore's win for Still Alice was the only nomination the film earned at the 2015 awards.

Eddie Redmayne has also been touted for double Oscars glory for his performance in the upcoming film The Danish Girl, in which he plays one of the first transgender women. However, critics say the film lacks the required emotional kick expected of such a groundbreaking subject.

The Oscars race has only just begun, but it seems Moore has made some strong early ground so far.

Freeheld opens nationally on Thursday.


Stars: Julianne Moore, Ellen Page, Steve Carell, Michael Shannon.

Director: Peter Sollett

Rating: M

Reviewer's last word: Director Peter Sollett's by-the-numbers drama undermines the film's noble intentions and strong performances from its female leads.

Star Profile: Ellen Page

Quirky fact: She was discovered at the age of 10 by Halifax actor John Dunsworth while he was visiting her school during filming for the Pit Pony television series, which later she first starred in.

Best known for: Juno, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Inception, Hard Candy.

If you like this movie you'll like these: Still Alice, Carol, The Danish Girl, About Ray.

Quote: "Usually, I couldn't care less if my friends see my movies or not. In Nova Scotia I like to leave my job behind. So when friends say, 'Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't see that one', I don't care. But Inception was different. I was like, "Go see this."