By Don Simpson | April 27, 2012
Director: Jay Gammill
Writer: Jim Beggarly
Starring: Jess Weixler, Jesse Eisenberg, Jason Ritter, Halley Feiffer, Tippi Hedren, Keir O’Donnell, Jocelin Donahue, Whitney Able, Eben Kostbar, James Duval, Matt Walsh, Craig Gellis, Suzy Nakamura, Cory Knauf, Joseph McKelheer, Madison Leisle, Joe Nunez, Angel Parker
Horribly hungover, Jillian (Jess Weixler) needs a really large cup of coffee — with real sugar — but instead she ends up in a Mike’s Dream ice cream truck dishing out free samples of faux ice cream. Trapped in this one very confined location all day, Jillian is exposed to a series of characters (but no coffee).
Jay Gammill’s Free Samples captures Jillian in a moment of stasis, stuck in a depressing state of limbo. In her previous life, Jillian was a law student at Stanford University and engaged to be married; now Jillian is a single, unemployed “artist” trying to make ends meet in Los Angeles. Jillian passes the hours alternating between alcohol-fueled buzzes and crippling hangovers, with an occasional one night stand thrown in for good measure. Her latest sexcapade was with a guy she dubbed “Tex” (Jesse Eisenberg); then, “Tex” stumbles upon Jillian at Mike’s Dream ice cream truck just like everyone else, seemingly by happenstance. “Tex” comes at Jillian with pick-up lines a-blazing, armed with an unwavering persistence to score an actual date with her. As with the other characters who converse with Jillian, it seems as though “Tex” only exists in this narrative to make Jillian’s already torturous caffeine-free hangover even worse.
Jess Weixler was unforgettable in Teeth — thanks in no small part to her teeth-wielding vajayjay; but she opts for a much subtler approach in Free Samples. Nonetheless, the entire film — which is essentially a one act play — rests solely upon Weixler’s performance as Jillian. Gammill and screenwriter Jim Beggarly veer away from creating a detailed character study of Jillian, instead they scientifically study how Jillian reacts to a wide range of catalysts. The ice cream truck serves as the proverbial test tube — each character approaches their interaction with Jillian differently, and each solicits a unique reaction.