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"Barefoot" movie review

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Barefoot

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People often form unjust, biased opinions about their peers, based on stereotypical preconceived notions about what they must be like, based on their actions. Director Andrew Fleming, who is known for helming such strong female character-driven films as ‘The Craft,’ ‘Dick’ and ‘Nancy Drew,’ is breaking prejudiced expectations about how women should go after what they want, again with the new romantic comedy-drama, ‘Barefoot,’ which opens today in New York theaters. The movie offers a riveting glance into how women obtain happiness within their personal relationships, even if they don’t conform to society’s outlook on acceptable behavior, and the lengths they’ll go to in order to obtain what they truly want in life.

Barefoot’ follows the innocent and naïve Daisy (Evan Rachel Wood), a young woman whose mentally ill mother sheltered her from the world while she was growing up. Daisy is unsure how to handle her mother’s recent death, and is unable to assimilate into society, which leads her to be placed under watch at a psychiatric hospital. While being checked into the institution, she inadvertently meets Jay (Scott Speedman), an irresponsible gambler who owes an extensive amount of money to one of the local casinos. Jay is serving as a janitor in the hospital to fulfill the required community service that’s part of his probation deal.

As a way to raise fast money, Jay decides to travel to New Orleans for his brother’s wedding, in an effort to get back into the good graces of his rich, estranged family. After Daisy sneaks out of the hospital one night and follows him back to his apartment before he leaves Los Angeles for the weekend, Jay decides to bring her with him, in an effort to impress his critical father (Treat Williams). Despite his best intentions, Jay not only upsets Dr. Bertleman (J.K. Simmons), who’s overseeing Daisy’s case, for bringing her across the country with him without permission, but also fails to make a good first impression when he first reunites with his family. But as he spends more time with his well-meaning new companion, he realizes that not only does he finally begin to honestly care about someone besides himself, but that it’s also time to truly improve his life and future plans.

Wood and Speedman were smartly cast as the two struggling protagonists. Not only were both battling with the people in their lives who told them they had no chance to improve their future, but also with the conflicts within themselves that they weren’t deserving to change their lives and carry out their dreams. While the film’s screenwriter, Stephen Zotnowski, created two completely diverse lead characters in ‘Barefoot,’ both Daisy and Jay realistically were equally trying to find their places in the world where they could be themselves, despite the limitations placed on them by other people.

The two actors brazening and courageously portrayed their respective characters as feeling more confident in their lives as they spent more time together, despite other people’s apprehension that their clashing personalities could truly blend together. While Dr. Bertleman was insistent Daisy should be receiving treatment in the hospital, and Jay’s family felt he was using her youthful nature as a way to remain immature himself, the actors’ natural chemistry made what could have been a clichéd romantic comedy-drama into an alluring love story.

Barefoot’s production designer, Toby Corbett, also helped infuse Fleming’s intriguing love story with diverse and captivating locations that also helped add a believability to Daisy and Jay’s growing bond. When the two first met at the hospital, Corbett created sterile, non-descript hallways and patient rooms to help emphasize that neither one wants to spend time, and are eager to embark on a journey together. After the couple arrives at Jay’s parents’ mansion in New Orleans, the elegant furniture, fixture and grounds prove that he has a true potential to truly change his future if makes the attempt to reconcile his relationships. Each setting during Daisy and Jay’s impromptu trip together creatively emphasizes their present outlook on where their lives are headed, and the more effort they put into mending their relationships, the better the chances they have to get what they want.

The romantic comedy-drama is the latest creative effort by the ever-changing and diverse Fleming, who isn’t afraid to take risks to showcase the struggles and hurdles distinct women must face and overcome in order to find fulfilment and validation. The director smartly cast Wood and Speedman as the two distinct, emotionally damaged Daisy and Jay, who only come to find their respective true potentials once they connect with each other, as they finally found someone who understands their motivations and needs. The actors’ natural connection and genuine portrayal of their distinctive characters, combined with Corbett’s creative production design that cleverly reflects each stage of the two protagonist’ gripping budding relationship, ‘Barefoot’ is an enthralling exploration of how two people can truly bolster each other’s potential.

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