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The Oscar must be getting heavy: Morgan Freeman, crowned Best Supporting Actor in 2005 for Million Dollar Baby, has gone and made an indie film. Hollywood’s favorite narrator executive produces and stars as an unnamed has-been actor researching a role with the help of a cashier in 10 Items or Less, a dreary update of My Dinner With Andre—minus the dinner. Scarlet (Paz Vega), a Spanish checkout clerk in a forgotten corner of Los Angeles—Phedon Papamichael’s clinical cinematography of minimalls and supermarket aisles terrorize the cornea—shows off her modern immigrant proletarian lifestyle while Freeman takes notes, offers fashion advice, and helps her prepare for a white-collar job interview. Throughout, the duo trades directionless existential dialogue and pedestrian carpe diem philosophies, and not much happens as they expound on life and how to live it. It’s wonderful to see Freeman stretch—American film’s sonorous elder statesman pokes fun at his ubiquitous voice-overs and bizarre association with Ashley Judd—but 10 Items or Less, which feels more like a failed acting exercise than a fleshed-out story, isn’t a road-ready vehicle for this venerable thespian. Freeman just doesn’t convince as a flaky celebrity who can’t remember his phone number and tries to pay for everything with a Diners Club card. The part proves a poor fit for an icon better suited to playing God, if only in Bruce Almighty. Even the supporting cast is recycled; Bobby Cannavale, as a morally bankrupt store manager, reprises his morally bankrupt foreman from Fast Food Nation, and a silent Kumar Pallana reprises the quirky Royal Tenenbaums “foreign dude” he already reprised in The Terminal. Writer-director Brad Silberling (Moonlight Mile, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events), a TV vet, makes weak grabs at romantic comedy and gravitas with poorly sketched protagonists better suited to the small screen. The meager offering, clocking in at around 80 minutes, limps to the finish line, leaving Vega’s butchered line-readings in its wake; the actress lit up the underappreciated Spanglish but finds no magic to work here. Freeman crumples in sympathy. 10 Items or Less wants to be an offbeat character study but forgets to study its characters.—Justin Moyer