The Benefactor

***1/2

Reviewed by: Luke Shaw

Theo James and Dakota Fanning in Franny
"Richard Gere is exceptional."

Andrew Rezni’s character piece sets out to prove that everything comes at a price, and it certainly fulfills this goal. Its focus is firmly on the titular Franny (Richard Gere) - an eccentric philanthropist, hospital owner and resident board member - who will stop at nothing to help people who need it. Very little is revealed about him, and it’s suggested that it doesn’t really matter what goes into making a man, just what that man does with his life.

His relationship with his friends (also business partners) is overbearing and intimate, ultimately to a fault as a catastrophic crash leaves them dead, causing their daughter Olivia (Dakota Fanning) - nicknamed Poodles by Franny - to run away. Little of his life in between this time is revealed, but the grief and guilt has taken its toll as dependence on high grade pharmaceutical drugs has become the pinion around which his life revolves. When Poodles comes back into his life, pregnant and with a handsome partner in Doctor Luke (Theo James), Franny gets a chance to make amends for what he perceives to be his past sins.

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Richard Gere is exceptional, pulling off the flamboyant style and exuberant nature of Franny, but also managing to make him feel three dimensional. There would have been a real danger here that Franny could have been written too much like a Willy Wonka style figure, friend to children and stuck in childhood intimacies, but Gere effortlessly grounds him by making him exactly the kind of larger than life character that is actually comfortably believable.

Franny’s problem is that he cares without real consideration, and Luke points it out. Trying to buy Poodles happiness is bound to end in failure, and Luke refuses to be thoughtlessly thankful for the leg ups that Franny provides him. Theo James does a decent job of portraying this, even if the emasculated husband is a little bit of a tired role.

True to the song, The Drugs Don’t Work, especially when Franny is forced to confront the reality of his endless giving, and the realisation that sometimes the price to pay is too high, or beyond even the grasp of the wealthiest of people. It’s a little disappointing that we don’t get to see more of Gere dealing with this, but his performance is stellar, and mustering any ill will towards this tender portrayal of a charming man would feel like the height of pettiness.

Reviewed on: 20 Jun 2015
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A guilt-ridden philanthropist tries to help a young couple but isn't so good at caring for himself.
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