Being Frank


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Being Frank
"Miranda Bailey struggles with pacing but strikes a good balance between comedy and acknowledgement of the awfulness at the story's core."

"I didn't mean for this to happen. It was an accident!" protests Frank.

As The Sopranos established, living a double life gets more difficult as kids grow up and start asking questions. Frank is no gangster, however - just a common or garden bigamist. He's got away with it for long enough to have two fully fledged families with kids about to leave the nest and go off to college. Philip (Logan Miller), however, is perplexed by his father's insistence that he can't take up an offer from NYU and has to settle for State instead. In an act of rebellion, he decides to run off in the company of his best friend whilst his mother is busy with his little sister and Frank is supposedly in Japan. The plan is to drink beer, smoke cannabis and ogle girls he has no hope of seducing. Stumbling upon Frank's secret life was definitely not what he wanted.

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What follows is an elaborate farce, with Frank quickly realising the power that the boy has acquired over him and trying to wrest back control by pleading, begging, inventing complex excuses and offering a straight-out cash bribe. What he doesn't seem to grasp is the emotional impact of his actions on Philip, whose hesitation about revealing the truth has more to do with fear of upsetting his mother than any sympathy for his father. To complicate things further, Philip gets to know and like the second family. As he finds himself becoming Frank's accomplice and trying to fend off the advances of his unwitting half sister, he struggles to determine the right ethical path, with the deception becoming increasingly precarious at every turn.

Whilst one has to admire scriptwriter Glen Lakin's skill at keeping the farce going for as long as it does, the film too often feels as if it's being clever for the sake of it and adding more twists doesn't necessarily add to their comedic impact. Less would have been more, as the story starts to sag towards the end. What saves it is the acting, with every character coming across as rounded and human. Frank isn't allowed the glamour often associated with men in this situation; instead he comes across as a coward unwilling to take responsibility for the mess he has made, but that doesn't make him completely unrelatable. As Philip, Miller does a good job of providing a moral focal point yet still letting us see the vulnerability of a teenager out of his depth, both excited and disturbed by his sudden power.

There's some excellent supporting work, with Anna Gunn and Samantha Mathis making the wives into solid, complex characters whom we could root in any situation, never mere victims. Emerson Tate Alexander brings a steely wit to the politically passionate little sister who, in lesser hands, could easily have had the comedy play out at her expense.

Holding it all together, director Miranda Bailey struggles with pacing but strikes a good balance between comedy and acknowledgement of the awfulness at the story's core. It's her first narrative feature as a director but she has a strong track record in production, which has probably contributed to her confident approach. The result is a playful look at a serious subject which never really ventures into dark comic territory but knows when to reel back on the silliness because somebody needs a slap.

Reviewed on: 14 Jun 2019
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Being Frank packshot
A teenager is shocked to discover that his father has a secret second family.

Director: Miranda Bailey

Writer: Glen Lakin

Starring: Logan Miller, Jim Gaffigan, Anna Gunn, Samantha Mathis, Danielle Campbell

Year: 2018

Runtime: 109 minutes

Country: US


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