10 Items or Less (2006)

Genres - Comedy Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Slice of Life, Road Movie  |   Release Date - Dec 1, 2006 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 77 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Derek Armstrong

Exchange the nocturnal melancholy of Tokyo for sunny East Los Angeles, then swap Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson for Morgan Freeman and Paz Vega, and you've got 10 Items or Less, Brad Silberling's own version of Lost in Translation, albeit with a lot more whimsy. Like Murray before him, Freeman plays a famous actor who meets a young woman at a crucial moment of self-doubt for both; each provides the other the perspective to better understand themselves, implicitly understanding the fleeting nature of their time together rather than trying to consummate any potential attraction. Silberling's influences may be obvious, but that doesn't mean the writer-director hasn't fashioned himself a nice little movie here. He's actually taken the logic of Lost in Translation one step further -- while Murray and Johansson's characters were both white Americans, Freeman and Vega have barriers of language (English is her second) and ethnicity dividing them, in addition to the gap between their ages. Both are charming as they develop a definite chemistry, but Freeman deserves extra credit for seeming to peer inside his true self. His character is never named, but thinly veiled references to Freeman's real career choices make the comparison overt and intentional. There's one exception: his character in 10 Items or Less is eager to make a comeback, whereas the real Freeman was firmly at the top of his game while doing this low-budget favor for Silberling. And he's clearly enjoying this little indie diversion, looking utterly carefree while dancing to Latino pop at a car wash, singing Spanish nursery rhymes with Vega, and eating Arby's sandwiches by the Los Angeles River. It's a teasingly brief little effort, running just 70 minutes, followed by another ten of spirited outtakes over the closing credits. But the sentiments and moments are meaty enough to compensate.