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Florida Film Fest review: FREE SAMPLES

April 6, 2013



Discovering a great short film is often the best thing about a festival. Conversely, the worst part is often discovering a feature that should have stayed a short. Case in point: Free Samples, the story of Jillian, a disillusioned 20-something who agrees to watch her friend’s ice-cream truck and hand out free servings. In the process, she discovers a bit about herself, her offbeat customers and the meaning of life.

This is the first feature by director Jay Gammill and writer Jim Beggarly, and it shows. Perhaps, as with those glossy food photos in restaurant menus, this ice cream looked better on paper. How else does one explain the involvement of Jesse Eisenberg, who is both miscast and underused as Jillian’s potential love interest, and Tippi Hedren as one of the customers?

Playing Jillian is the quirky Jess Weixler, who is trying her best to overcome the material. But at just 80 minutes and with some misplaced sincerity toward the end, the film just doesn’t give her enough to work with. After all, sometimes in art, as in life, less really is less.

The fact that I, your friendly festival reviewer, was able to see this film as a free sample made it somewhat palatable. If you’re stuck having to pay for this concoction, though, you may be left with buyer’s remorse.

“You’re the best-looking woman I would never, ever consider having sex with,” a friend tells Jillian. Sadly, judging just by Free Samples, Weixler is the best-looking woman I would never, ever consider seeing in a movie. So stay away and instead see the other Tippi Hedren film playing this year’s fest: Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, on April 12, if you can manage a stand-by ticket. And as an added bonus, Hedren herself will be there.