Being Frank

Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

Being Frank
dir Miranda Bailey
scr Glen Lakin
prd Miranda Bailey, Karen Kehela Sherwood, Amanda Marshall
with Jim Gaffigan, Logan Miller, Anna Gunn, Samantha Mathis, Alex Karpovsky, Daniel Rashid, Isabelle Phillips, Emerson Tate Alexander, Gage Polchlopek, Danielle Campbell, Hayes MacArthur, Michelle Hurd
release US 14.Jun.19
19/US Reliance 1h50

miller gunn mathis

gaffigan, karpovsky and miller
A relaxed pace and snappy dialog make this prickly comedy surprisingly engaging. Even with its high-concept bigamy premise, the film finds continual moments of authenticity as the events unfold. The solid cast of actors keeps everything grounded, even as things begin to turn farcical. So while the film feels somewhat overlong and meandering, it's packed with people and themes that resonate.
Frank (Gaffigan) has a normal life in suburbia with his wife Laura (Gunn), frustrated 17-year-old son Philip (Miller) and precocious preteen daughter Lib (Alexander). But when Philip and his best pal Lewis (Rashid) run off to the lake for spring break, they discover Frank's secret: he hasn't been travelling to Japan, he has a second family at the lake with wife Bonnie (Mathis) and two teen kids (Polchlopek and Phillips). Caught in the middle, Philip now has to negotiate a precarious set of lies as he works out what to do about the situation.
There are some intriguing angles here, such as how Frank talks about his sons to his other families as if they're the shining star kids of his fictional best friend. Philip has never felt the approval of his dad, and now awkwardly discovers as the supportive father he never had. A bit more unpalatable is Philip's flirtation with his half-sister; he may be using it to provoke his dad, but she isn't in on the "joke". At least Lakin's script never glosses over the messier story elements, including Lewis' stoner uncle (Karpovsky), who gets dragged into the chaos.

Everyone in the cast is solid, nicely underplaying the roles to make these people easy to identify with. This includes the likeable Gaffigan as an eerily unapologetic bigamist. He's also often a downright jerk, even if there's a sympathetic humanity to him. Thankfully, the story is told through Philip's eyes, and Miller is excellent as he discovers this new side of his dad and grows close to his other family. Both Gunn and Mathis are terrific in roles that could have been thankless.

"There's two sides to every story," Frank says, then later tries to explain himself away as if his situation is perfectly reasonable. There's a strange sense that the filmmakers are trying to justify Frank's long double life, while at the same time grappling with the ramifications. And some serious moments along the way add weight to the movie, especially as the script cycles around to confront the ways people avoid the truth.

cert 15 themes, language, drugs, nudity 10.Jun.19

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© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall