Being Frank (2019) Film Review

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In 1953, Ida Lupino directed The Bigamist, a film, as the title would suggest, about a man with two families. Lupino was known for the controversial subject matter she explored in her work, and while her look at bigamy is primarily centred on the contrasting female characters of the film, it’s easy to create a link between it and Miranda Bailey‘s feature debut Being Frank. Both explore immorality that makes for good entertainment, but Bailey, who previously portrayed Andrea in The Diary of a Teenage Girl, places her primary focus on the children affected by the complexities of this familial dynamic.

It’s 1992, and Philip (Logan Miller) is looking forward to spring break. But his controlling father, Frank (Jim Gaffigan), who sucks the fun out of every room he walks into, refuses to let his son go and insists on making him feel like a failure every chance he gets. Conflict heavy and full of tension, this is just one of the dynamics that Bailey and screenwriter Glen Lakin explore with great effect.

How differently one man can raise two families is crafted brilliantly…

The rebellion Philip feels to defy his father every chance he gets is what leads to the film’s downward spiral of betrayal when he discovers that his father has been living a double life – a life that couldn’t be any more different from his own. With his other family, Frank is laidback, and it’s clear that this part of his life is his favourite, as he jokes around with his jock son, compliments his wife, and praises his daughter. They are allowed things that Philip has been denied and have bonded with Frank in a way that he never has. How differently one man can raise two families is crafted brilliantly, even down to how differently each home physically contrasts the other. Philip’s is dull in colour, while the other is vibrant in many respects.

What sets the narrative back, however, is Philip and Frank’s motivations and how they deal with the situation. At first, Philip acts with anger, as anyone would, but as the film moves forward, he forgives and accepts it, as though the audience is supposed to feel that way, too. Trying to understand Frank’s delusional belief that what he did was best for his family is an impossible task.

Being Frank loses steam as the wait for the big reveal feels overlong, and it fails to be a laugh out loud funny comedy, but it somehow manages to take a serious situation and make it fun, thanks to the charm of its cast especially Gaffigan and Miller. Philip’s discovery and the new relationships that come from that, in all its Luke and Leia awkwardness, is interesting to see form on screen.

DIRECTOR: Miranda Bailey STARS: Jim Gaffigan, Logan Miller, Anna Gunn RUNTIME: 111 COUNTRY: U.S.A

Film Rating: ★★★☆☆

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