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Free Zone

A real weeper of a performance from Natalie Portman
By CHRIS WANGLER  |  July 5, 2006
2.5 2.5 Stars
FREE ZONE: Natalie Portman can sob, but can she act?
For the first five minutes (no exaggeration) of Amos Gitai’s wayward road movie, Rebecca (Natalie Portman) sits in a parked SUV in Jerusalem, sobbing. Does this prove that she can act? Not really. As a displaced American student, Portman spends the next 80 minutes reminding us of her flighty, annoying side and drawing our attention from the driver (and real talent): a blunt Israeli wife, played carefully by Hana Laszlo, who agrees to take Rebecca to Jordan’s economic (and metaphoric) “free zone” to collect a debt owed to her husband by a weary Palestinian woman (Hiam Abbass). Along the way, and for no discernible reason, Gitai muddies the waters by exposing footage of Rebecca’s failed engagement over long, unobtrusive shots of passing landscapes. He deserves credit for balancing the fraught perspectives, but the message here — that bloodlines die hard when survival is at stake — is scarcely original.
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