Being Frank, a comedy directed and produced by Miranda Bailey, is the story of a man living a double life. This is no spy thriller, but rather a story about a man who has managed to get away with having two families at once, until his son Phillip (Logan Miller) happens upon the other family during his spring break.
Unlike many of my colleagues in film criticism, I enjoyed this film. Not because it has a particularly great script; memorable characters or profound meaning, but because it reminded me of the long lost days when most films that came out were originals.
Phillip is a senior in high school about to embark on his transition to college. His father Frank (Jim Gaffigan) is an overbearing, critical autocrat hell bent on controlling the lives of Phillip and his sister Lib (Emerson Tate Alexander). Frank constantly goes on about his friend Ritchie’s kids, who are supposedly uber successful and, in general, people that Phillip simply can’t compete with.
When Phillip’s best friend Lewis (Daniel Rashid) invites him up to the lake for the annual Starling Festival for their last high school Spring Break, Frank refuses to let Phillip go. After Frank leaves on a “business trip”, Phillip leaves a note for his mom (Anna Gun) that he’s studying at Lewis’s for the weekend and goes on the trip anyway.
The boys arrive at Lewis’s uncle’s (Alex Karpovsky) house, who is a pot smoking, disheveled, slovenly draggletail that’s barely aware of the kid’s presence. They decide to spend some time at the local pool, where Phillip meets the attractive Kelly (Isabelle Phillips).
He wants to speak more to her but ends up having to hide when he spots Frank approaching the pool. He watches as Frank speaks to and embraces Kelly and, at first, the boys, think Frank is involved with her, so they follow Frank to the house he and Kelly drive to.
Down the Rabbit hole
Upon arrival, Phillip climbs the lattice façade on the house to spy on Frank more. He sees a woman (Samantha Mathis) on the balcony, painting, and when Frank comes out, she embraces him. Phillip puts two and two together and discovers that Frank has a second family he knew nothing about.
Along with the beautiful Kelly, Frank also has a super-fit, high school football star son Eddie (Gage Banister),which is Phillip’s complete nightmare because he was never a sportsman like Frank wanted. Frank’s second family is the literal opposite of Phillip’s and are able to do everything that Frank forbids him to do.
Phillip uses Frank’s lies against him to extort everything he wants. From tuition to NYU, to the ability to drink beer and hang out with his friends, nothing is off of the menu since Frank has no way, or room, to deny him.
Things get dicey for Phillip when Kelly, unaware that she’s his half sister, starts to like him, but Phillip also uses this to his advantage to agitate Frank. The rest of the film spirals into “just deserves” for Frank and emerges with a twisted resurrection, of sorts, for his relationship with Phillip.
The film takes place in the early nineties, piquing nostalgia with some retro costuming and one or two well known songs from the decade, but my sense of nostalgia was piqued by the way it was crafted and filmed. It brought me back to a time when original scripts were mainstream, not something one had to hunt for on demand or at film festivals.
Unlike today’s theatrical options flooded with bloated remakes and endless, unoriginal comic book re-imaginings, people in the early nineties had choices when they went to the theater. There were big budget originals in all genres and multitudes of original indies to choose from.
Director Miranda Bailey put together an overall enjoyable film reminiscent of the sleeper films of an era of filmmaking that is altogether lost. Being Frank presents like a film teens or families in the early 90’s would see on a scorching summer afternoon when it was too hot to do anything else. It reminded me of films in the vein of What About Bob? , and other elusive gems of that era.
Though the script is a bit slow and not as funny as it could've been given it’s star, it is still a breath of fresh air. Miranda Bailey and cast, infused it with enough love and care to elicit some hope in this current, powerfully hopeless age of cinema, and that’s no small task. It was invigorating to see in lieu of today’s constant, ruinous remakes of the original films of my childhood.
In all honesty…
Many Critics seem to be dumping on this film due to how toxic the actions of Frank are and it’s far fetched story line. I don’t believe its creators meant for it to be taken seriously, because it doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s a flawed, silly comedy, not a public service statement.
It’s true that Frank’s actions are inexcusable, but the way that the film handles it, almost makes him look like someone who tried to do the right thing, but got stuck in a bad situation that he eventually couldn’t escape. The premise creates an excellent situation for a comedy of errors of epic proportions, but the writing, unfortunately, was lacking.
However, there is still enough no-brainer, easy-going fun to make it worth a watch. I hope that more filmmakers in the future continue to make films like this, and people go see them, so another generation doesn’t have to go without the plethora of great originals our generation grew up with. Scripts not adapted from or based on a book are sorely needed today along with the elevation of more unknown, talented artists.
Let’s just hope that those with clout in the industry and the general public, don’t continue to allow the unmitigated monopoly that holds the film industry hostage; stuffing it and moviegoers with the tedium of the same ol’ people and the same ol’ stories.