2019 Milwaukee Film Festival – Day Three – GIVE ME LIBERTY
Day three of the 2019 Milwaukee Film Festival brought a brilliant Autumn day. And plenty of enthusiastic movie goers who had a lot to say about what they had seen to date. Lots of buzz about films like IN FABRIC, FRAMING JOHN DELOREAN, and, of course, THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC.
Day three brought me to catch up on a film I had meant to see previously, GIVE ME LIBERTY. Showing in the Broadway Theatre Center, retrofitted to have a screen, it was a very appropriate venue, mixing the old Milwaukee and the new.
GIVE ME LIBERTY is a film set in and filmed in and around Milwaukee. Vic (Chris Galust) is the frazzled son of Eastern European emigres who’s having a very hectic day. He’s running late as a medical transport driver trying to get his grandfather, who just might burn their apartment building down if left unattended, and his emigre friends to a funeral, do his rounds, and avoid falling further behind as protests block streets. It might not help that one of his clients, Tracy ( Lauren “Lolo” Spencer ), a young woman confined to a wheelchair with ALS, isn’t having it with his excuses.
One of the first things that strikes you about the film is how frantic it is. Which helps makes the series of mishaps Vic encounters during the day very funny. And, help makes Vic sympathetic. You can see how every good intention just drags him deeper and deeper behind schedule. It’s not that Vic is lazy and doesn’t care. It’s that he cares about his community and can’t say no when asked to help. That makes him sympathetic. What makes him funny is his overoptimistic attitude where he just needs “10 minutes” for everything.
It’s not quite a love story between Tracy and Vic, but it most certainly is, at least, the beginning of a friendship. Lauren “Lolo” Spencer just bursts from the screen. She might be limited physically to a wheelchair, but her spirit and personality aren’t contained. It is unacceptable that Vic is as late as he is, falling hours behind schedule. It’s forgivable when she see’s how much he cares and how he doesn’t take the easy way out. Well, except for maybe abandoning a mattress halfway up the stairs. It’s a real breakout performance.
With a big cast of eccentrics around them, Tracy and Vic sometimes seem like the only sane people in an insane world. And perhaps that’s doubtful about Vic whose optimism and generosity seem out of place. But, GIVE ME LIBERTY is a little American independent film that could. It’s funny, memorable, fast paced, and has a lot to say about the current state of America. Maybe about Milwaukee too, where the ubiquitous bungalow becomes a character in its own right. This isn’t the gleaming downtown, but the struggling part of the city that proves to be durable and vibrant in its own way.
GIVE ME LIBERTY plays twice more at the Milwaukee Film Festival on Sunday, October 20th at 12:30 pm at the Rivoli Theatre and Monday, October 21st at 6:30 pm at the Times Cinema. The 2019 Milwaukee Film Festival runs from October 17, 2019 to October 31, 2019. Information and tickets can be found at Milwaukee Film’s website mkefilm.org.