With the Cannes Film Festival dominating the headlines earlier today, let’s not forget that right now in New York City the Tribeca Film Festival is in full swing, offering cinephiles a host of movies making their premieres and beginning their journey through the fest circuit and eventually into theaters. And one of those films is “Free Samples,” the feature debut by Jay Gammill starring Jess Weixler and Jesse Eisenberg, with an appearance from the legendary Tippi Hedren.
Taking place over the course of one day, the film tells the story of Jillian, a Stanford dropout who wakes up hungover from a night at the bar with friends and is quickly enjoined by her friend Nancy to cover her shift at an ice cream truck. Reluctantly agreeing to do the favor, Jillian spends the day engaging with the variety of oddball customers who arrive for a promotional free sample (hence the title) being given away, all while giving the young woman a chance to reflect on the events that have left her with a bitter taste in her mouth, and a caustic, but protective shell. But if you think is just another youthful indie flick about an underachiever, guess again.
“I’ve heard sort of some people [ask] ‘Is this sort of a twenty-something slacker movie?’ And it’s not in that I don’t think this girl is a slacker, she’s never been a slacker, she was very ambitious and was set up to be a law student,” Weixler told us. “She’s in the middle of a course correction, like she hopped off the boat when she realized she didn’t know why she was driving towards what she was driving towards, but she hasn’t figured out where to go now. So it’s like this murky space that she’s in.”
And while Jillian is far cry from Weixler’s sunnier disposition, it was exactly that difference that she found interesting about the part and the film. “Definitely the character because she’s so wonderfully sour,” Weixler said about what helped her decide to do the film. “I find that I don’t get to do that all the time. I tend to be typically a bit of a cheery person and I’m also southern, I’m from Louisville, Kentucky and I was raised with a lot of ‘please’ and ‘thank yous,’ so it was really, really fun to play someone who is not having any of that nonsense.”
And though the structure of the film presented an array of characters, many of whom are only on screen for a few minutes as they interact with Jillian, Weixler revealed this helped in connecting with Jillian. “I loved on this one having somebody new to play with almost every day or every other day,” she told us. “Everybody would come in for just a few days, like a day or two, and I’d have somebody totally new to play with all the time which kept it very exciting. And it also helped with the sense of…essentially Jillian feels alone and trapped in this ice cream truck, so the fact that everything keeps changing and there’s nothing consistent, also helped with the feeling of being a little alone.”
“Free Samples” premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival on Friday, April 20th at 9 p.m. at the Clearview Cinemas Chelsea 7.