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Review: 'Give Me Liberty' a big-hearted romp that goes somewhere

By Tom Long
Special to The Detroit News

A wonderful thing happens to “Give Me Liberty” on its way to being a madcap comedy; it takes on meaning.

Not meaning in the sense of some articulated message or political stance. Meaning in the sense of human need, desire, empathy. It becomes a celebration and examination of life.

Which is fitting in that it begins with a funeral. Young Vic (promising newcomer Chris Galust) drives a medical transport van in Milwaukee. In the morning he wakes his senile grandfather, a Russian emigrant set to go to the funeral of another Russian emigrant with fellow Russian emigrants.

Chris Galust and Lauren "Lolo" Spencer star in "Give Me Liberty."

As he’s wheeling his first client of the day – a morbidly obese blind diabetes patient filled with complaints -- out to his van, Vic discovers the mourners have no ride to the funeral. So he loads the gaggle of bickering, none-too-appreciative elderfolk into the van. He’ll drop them off while doing his rounds.

For a while, this becomes Vic’s wild ride as the group ends up at a spirited talent show for the developmentally disabled, avoids police barriers (there’s been a race-related shooting), and attends the wrong funeral. Along the way Vic picks up a fiery wheelchair-bound ALS patient, Tracy (the spectacular Lauren “Lolo” Spencer), who reluctantly becomes part of the group.

The madcap energy continues – an opera recital, a con man, a rowdy wake. But there’s also a race riot, a sad alcoholic mother and the stark fact that most of these people are seriously damaged or old.

Still, they’re alive and a strong heart beats through writer-director Kirill Mikhanovsky’s film. Most of the characters here are not played by professional actors; they’re real human beings. And this looks a lot like real life: Pulsing, unexpected, vibrant, sad and joyous.

“Give Me Liberty”

GRADE: A-

Not rated

Running time: 110 minutes

Give Me Liberty (Not rated)

A young medical transport driver in Milwaukee juggles Russian emigrants, challenged clients and lost deadlines in his big-hearted comic drama. (110 minutes) Tom Long/Special to The Detroit News GRADE: A