Films seldom feature a dynamic female lead but rather present one note women with few distinguishing traits. In Free Samples, Jillian (the talented Jess Weixler) serves as an appealingly sketched anti-heroine. The fact that she is confused, unsure of her vocation, and emotionally impaired, makes her strikingly realistic. The film's central character is one of the major reasons that Free Samples is such an amusingly unique film.
Some have criticized the film for being a mopey platform for first-world problems but isn't that the case with most films? Weren't indie films invented so that artsy hipsters could complain about their dilemmas? Of course the situation in Darfur is far more pressing than having to work a day-long temp job you're not fond of but it doesn't make the film any less valid. Jillian is dealing with a number of relatable issues that many young women are facing. She's been engaged to a man she doesn't love, was attending law school with little intention of becoming a lawyer, and has yet to confront her father for marrying a woman practically her age. She's socially inadequate and quite rude but as the film progresses, it's clear that she has depth. This manifests when her estranged fiance shows up unexpectedly. As Weixler told the International Business Times:
She's kind of wicked and sour, but she's not a bad person. She's in this ice-cream truck because she's trying to be a good friend...she's just not that great with people.
Aside from the film's central focus, there are issues of substance abuse, promiscuity, and a self-reflective heart-to-heart with Hollywood icon Tippi Hedren (who plays a fictional version of herself). So while it may be considered artsy fluff by some, much of what the film presents is not difficult to identify with. Who hasn't had to deal with bizarre customers or members of the public for a job? If you haven't, surely you've dealt with relationship difficulties.
Jesse Eisenberg has a small role as the suavely confident Albert, who slept but didn't sleep with Jillian the night before. His charming demeanor and soulfully delivered monologue, makes his role one of the film's highlights.
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While a few lines fall flat and some moments seem to miss the mark, we don't need two jokes about looking for stamps in an ice-cream truck, Free Samples is worth trying.