Juvenile delinquent (Reese Witherspoon) vs. serial killer (Kiefer Sutherland)!
“Rude in the way the truth is rude – only funnier.” - Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle
In this postmodern exploitation adventure loosely based on Little Red Riding Hood, the uneducated daughter of a drug-addicted prostitute flees the foster care system in search of her long-lost grandmother, but meets up instead with a serial killer. Vanessa (Reese Witherspoon), a nearly illiterate firebug and serial shoplifter, desperately clings to normalcy even though her mother turns tricks, does drugs, and manages to ignore the fact that the girl’s stepfather has been abusing her for years. When both parents get arrested, Vanessa steals the car of her family services caseworker (Conchata Ferrell) and heads up Interstate 5 in search of her paternal grandmother, who’s never met her. Car problems force her to accept a ride from Bob Wolverton (Kiefer Sutherland), a youth counselor who uses charm and sympathy to get the girl to open up. Confessing the sordid details of her childhood to Bob, Vanessa is shocked when he suddenly declares that she’s one of the “garbage people.” It turns out Bob’s the “I-5 Murderer,” who’s been slaughtering young prostitutes in the Los Angeles area. This kicks off a vicious game of cat-and-mouse with mutually sharp claws…
Although FREEWAY was originally filmed for HBO, vigorously positive critical response eventually earned it a theatrical release. Alanna Ubach, who portrays Vanessa’s nemesis/accomplice Mesquita, would go on to appear with Witherspoon in LEGALLY BLONDE. FREEWAY also features two CLUELESS alumni: Dan Hedaya, as a police detective, and Brittany Murphy, as the disfigured teen who befriends Vanessa in lock-up.