What You Need To Know:
GIVE ME LIBERTY is paced at breakneck speed, with richly drawn characters and utterly unpredictable situations. It presents a series of comical, sometimes dangerous misadventures that’s pretty entertaining. Eventually, the characters are forced to overcome their differences and help one another deal with life’s turmoils. Sadly, however, this positive message is marred by lots of strong foul language. Consequently, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution for GIVE ME LIBERTY.
There are some jobs that most people take for granted. Being a dial-a-ride driver (the men and women who operate specialized vans carrying disabled, elderly and impoverished people) is one of them.
GIVE ME LIBERTY helps change that perception by focusing on a young Russian immigrant named Vic, who frantically hurtles through Milwaukee on a day that’s both harrowing for his passengers and for viewers, and all too much of a dangerous routine for him. Paced at breakneck speed, with richly drawn characters and utterly unpredictable situations, it plays like a darkly comic version of the vastly underseen 1999 Nicolas Cage-Martin Scorsese movie BRINGING OUT THE DEAD. It also feels as if Quentin Tarantino opted to return to his low-budget roots and make a gritty cinema verité style movie on the topic, but without all the bloodletting. What makes this movie more amazing is that its entire cast is comprised of actors in their debut roles and was made by a writer-director team that’s also making its debut narrative movie after a career in documentaries.
The movie follows a day in the life of Vic (Chris Galust), a twentysomething man who’s the son of a Russian immigrant single mother who’s always expressing her concern about him. Vic’s mother wants him to attend music school and be a professional cello player, but he has no desire to do that.
Instead, Vic finds purpose in helping numerous disadvantaged people get around Milwaukee using his transport van. It’s only supposed to be used for disabled people, but Vic’s a softie. So, one fateful day, he quickly gets overwhelmed when he agrees to take a group of several elderly Russians to a burial site so they can stage an impromptu funeral for a woman who spent her life without any family.
At the same time, Vic also has the clients he’s supposed to be helping aboard. That includes Tracy (Lauren “Lolo” Spencer in an Oscar-worthy performance with vast yet subtle emotional range), an African American woman with ALS and a motorized wheelchair who has to get to her job as a social worker for disabled people, and a mentally challenged woman who keeps practicing her off-key rendition of “Rock Around the Clock” while frantically begging Vic to make sure he attends her daycare center’s talent show. Add in a client of Tracy’s who can barely speak but keeps complaining about being late for a job interview, and a jovial Russian hustler named Dima (Maksim Stoyanov) who keeps adding to the chaos, and you’ve got a non-stop comic rollercoaster that one of the wildest movies produced in recent years.
The audience MOVEIGUIDE® attended was packed with a wide range of men and women of multiple races and different ages, all exploding with laughter or gasping with surprise throughout the movie. The magic of casting unknowns in a movie like this, then setting it in a city that’s rarely portrayed in movies, makes GIVE ME LIBERTY feel bracingly real and raises the stakes to a high level.
One of the best things about GIVE ME LIBERTY is that an American writer, Alice Austen, teamed up with the movie’s Russian director, the one-named Mikhanovsky, to provide an outsider’s view of American society that feels completely relatable and even transformative. As a result, different cultures clash throughout the movie. For example, the African American Tracy resents all the Russians who are illicitly aboard the van, while the Russians initially recoil in fear at having to drive through her neighborhood.
However, as this improbable mix of humanity shares in one hilarious, dangerous misadventure after another, they’re forced to drop their personal walls and appreciate each other. Sadly, though, this positive message about the American melting pot is spoiled by lots of strong foul language, including many “f” words and some strong profanities. Despite the movie’s entertaining, uplifting presentation, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution for GIVE ME LIBERTY.