Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Frankie & Alice

Directed by Geoffrey Sax.
2010. Rated R, 101 minutes.
Halle Berry
Stellan Skarsgard
Phylicia Rashad
Chandra Wilson
Alex Diakun
Joanne Baron
Matt Frewer
Rosalyn Coleman

Frankie (Berry) is smarter than your average stripper. Her pole-mates are all amazed by the fact she completed the crossword puzzle in the newspaper, yet again. Interestingly enough, she has no recollection of doing this. True, she does drink a lot and smokes some weed, so her memory is not something she can always count on. Still, life goes on. A little while later, she's about to let some guy have a monster's ball when she suddenly, and violently, no longer wants to be there. She runs out into the street, screaming hysterically with one boob peeking out to enjoy the night air. Eventually, she lies down in a busy intersection and loses consciousness. When she comes to, she finds herself in a mental institution under the care of Dr. Oz (Skarsgard). Ha, Dr. Oz! I know, right. Anyhoo, we soon get confirmation on what we already suspected. Frankie is a schizophrenic. Later on, we get to meet Alice, one of several personalities residing within her. Dr. Oz tyring to unite the whole crew ensues. Based on a true story.

I'm guessing the point of this movie was for Halle Berry to flex her thespianic muscles enough to spend a Sunday night the following February thanking the Academy. Again. Honestly, I'm still not sure how she won her first Oscar. I mean, she was not good in that role, but let's move past that. Let's look at this movie and this performance. Ms. Berry certainly goes for broke in a role clearly meant to be the flashy centerpiece of the film. Unfortunately, the script completely lets her down by never calling for subtlety. Not only does it require her to portray several widely variant personalities, but each is asked to dominate the screen in such a way as to attack our senses. It's a role that invites scenery chewing and Ms. Berry chows down like the fate of her very soul depends on it. Over the top is basically where each scene starts and elevates from there. While taking in all the histrionics can be fun, what we see doesn't ring true. It doesn't feel like we're watching a real woman struggle with a real problem, but an actress trying to amplify every emotion and vocal inflection until they reach the most absurd levels imaginable.

Stellan Skarsgard tries to ground the movie in a quieter performance. He has a few nice moments. Sadly, his character is mostly reduced to saying something to trigger freak-outs in others. Most often, the other is Halle Berry. However, this also happens with Phyilicia Rashhad as Berry's mother who is obviously in denial. Like her younger co-star, Rashad launches into exaggerated theatrics. Just to make sure he isn't left out of all the fun, Skarsgard gets to have a meltdown or two of his own, thanks to an a-hole hospital administrator.

The end result of all this "acting" is that the movie never really threatens to be an even remotely serious examination of the mental illness its protagonist suffers from. Instead, her condition feels like it's being exploited in order to showcase the ability of its stars. That we get one of those endings that suggests everything is okay after some rather quick developments doesn't help. It leaves us with a rather weird disconnect with what the movie purports is happening and what's actually taking place. Needless to say, it doesn't work.


  1. I'm not sure why she won that Oscar either. She was pretty over the top in Monster's Ball. I like Halle in Gothika, but I haven't really been impressed with her in other things. I skipped this one. I do love me some Stellan Skarsgard though.

    1. I thought she was pretty terrible in Monster's Ball. I did like her in Gothika and two or three other roles, but I'm generally not impressed with her acting. She'd great to look at, being very easy on the eyes, but not usually great to watch.

  2. Wow ... this does sound pretty bad. Excellent review!

    1. It's essentially an hour and forty minutes of Halle Berry Oscar-baiting and it gets to be too much, pretty fast.

  3. I was going to compliment your funny review, but I think I shall congratulate you on finishing the film ;)