The Freebie: A Marital Contract in Adultery

This likable little indie shares what might be called the Humpday paradox, minus the gay thing. In the new cinema of sexual transgression, the status quo will supposedly be overturned with a bedroom dare . . . after we talk about it beforehand. And then talk about it some more afterward. In Humpday, one dude wanted to shake up his marriage, the other his life. Here we have a nice married couple in their early 30s: nice L.A. bungalow, nice Prius in the driveway, nice, nice, nice. Only no sex. Not in months. They conduct crossword-puzzle races in bed instead. So they resolve, mainly at the suggestion of the husband (Dax Shepard), to give each other a free pass for a one-night stand that "will reignite whatever's lacking in us," per the wife (director Katie Aselton). Sounds fun—it'll be like Date Night plus infidelity! Only, of course, it turns out not to be. And, like Humpday (which coincidentally starred Aselton's husband Mark Duplass), the big event is mainly an excuse for endless pre- and post-game analysis among themselves and their friends. (A standout is Seattle multi-hyphenate Sean Nelson.) The Freebie tries to enliven the gab with oodles of editing, skipping around all sides of a very small story. With no credited writer, the script appears to have been outlined, then ad-libbed. But certainly the two stars have a comfortable comic rapport. It would be unfair to call The Freebie mumblecore, since it's plotted and has piquant moral urgency. After mocking couples who prefer "a little boat that doesn't rock," these smug marrieds discover they don't know how to swim.

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