Reese Witherspoon doesn’t get enough credit for how fantastic she was in the '90s. From Dani Trant in The Man in the Moon at the start of the decade through to Tracy Flick in Election, Reese often played fascinating, yet tricky roles. She made a name for herself playing characters that were far from perfect. One that falls into this category is the role of Vanessa Lutz in Freeway. Vanessa is a girl who is both smart and self-reliant, but she has suffered a tumultuous upbringing and is likely to use her fists first, words second. Reese Witherspoon has an uncanny ability to play both sympathetic and off-putting, and never is her talent for this type of role more evident than in Freeway.
Freeway was released in 1996 and directed by Matthew Bright. I will note that I'm not familiar with his other work – if any readers are fans, let me know if there are other films of his that I should check out! Along with Reese Witherspoon, the movie stars Kiefer Sutherland, Dan Hedaya, Amanda Plummer, and Brooke Shields. The premise is relatively simple – it's Little Red Riding Hood in mid-'90s Los Angeles with Red replaced by a runaway teen from the wrong side of the tracks and the Wolf replaced by Bob Wolverton, a serial killer masquerading as a school counselor. Once I write it out, it might not be that simple…
Vanessa begins her journey to her grandmother’s house with a car and a gun that is given as a gift. She very quickly loses the car after it breaks down while she is on the highway. This is where Bob Wolverton (Kiefer Sutherland) finds her, alone and in need of help. He quickly strikes by acting as the “Nice Guy” who is willing to give her a break by driving her as far as LA. Bob is a school counselor, and he gets Vanessa to open up easily to him about her past and her family. However, as she reveals parts of her past, the viewer and Vanessa begin to realize that something is off about Bob. He derives too much pleasure from her stories. Once this comes to light, Vanessa very quickly realizes that Bob is the “I-5 Killer.” The movie becomes a fight for survival for Vanessa. Don’t worry! I haven’t given too much away as this all happens early in Freeway. There is way more after this point.
I hope that readers have a chance to watch Freeway. It’s entertaining with strong performances from the entire cast and has some of my favorite dialogue. You won’t be disappointed! Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
• Love the intro, although it might be a smidge too long.
• Vanessa and Chopper are all about the PDA.
• Vanessa doesn't have a good parental support system.
• Stepdad Larry is super skeevy. I hate him.
• Amanda Plummer plays the mom. Her character is terrible, but it’s a credit to her acting that I feel.
• Poor social worker Mrs. Sheets. Only doing her job.
• I know it's on the nose, but I love the red coat and the basket.
• Cars shouldn't have that much smoke pouring out.
• Oh, hi Kiefer. I'm sure you won't turn out bad.
• Bob's so creepy. Stop getting so close to Vanessa.
• Ugh. I hate how Bob makes Vanessa bare her soul.
• Why did it take me this long to figure out that his name was Bob Wolverton? Wolverton... Wolf! I’m an idiot.
• I want Vanessa to punch Bob right in the face.
• Yes! I probably shouldn't be this excited about someone holding a gun on someone.
• "See where bad manners get you?"
• Reese Witherspoon is so freaking good.
• Bob, why would you tell her that if she calls the cops, you will go free? That just gives her incentive to shoot you.
• Aw, damn. He's alive.
• Hey Dan Hedaya!
• Hey Brooke Shields!
• I like these detectives.
• I love Vanessa's reaction to seeing Bob in the courtroom.
• Brittany Murphy! I miss her.
• Ugh. The sympathy the Wolverton’s are getting is disgusting.
• Detectives detecting!
• Damn, Mesquita, that's cold.
• Vanessa just doesn't have time for anyone's shit anymore.
• Well, she's made it to Grandma's.
• The music is off-putting but perfect. It's very discordant.
• How many bullets does this gun have?
• I love the smiles at the end. They’ve all gone a little mad.