×

Fixing Frank

As cleverly devised as the mental games of its warring shrinks, "Fixing Frank" exemplifies what happens when artists -- as opposed to pseudo-artists with political axes to grind -- take on a controversial issue. The topical matter is "reverse therapy," the scientifically unproven method of transforming homosexual into heterosexual behavior.

With:
Dr. Arthur Apsey - Dan Butler Frank Johnston - Andrew Elvis Miller Dr. Jonathan Baldwin - Paul Provenza

As cleverly devised as the mental games of its warring shrinks, “Fixing Frank” exemplifies what happens when artists — as opposed to pseudo-artists with political axes to grind — take on a controversial issue. The topical matter in Ken Hanes’ script, which he has closely adapted from his three-hander play, is “reverse therapy,” the scientifically unproven — and much reviled in the gay community — method of transforming homosexual into heterosexual behavior. Hanes, though, is after deeper concerns, pushing his drama past issues into the realm where trust and beliefs are tested. Full of bold dramatic strokes and complex character shadings, shot-on-video pic is sure to set off heated discussion at fests and should entice micro-distribs with an eye toward ancillary play.

The small screen is where Hanes’ dialogue-driven drama, framed by helmer Michael Selditch with a taste for close-ups, is most easily absorbed. What at first appears to be a typical session where patient Frank (Andrew Elvis Miller) has come to be “healed” of his gay identity by Dr. Arthur Apsey (Dan Butler) is actually part of a conspiracy Frank and his psychologist b.f. Dr. Jonathan Baldwin (Paul Provenza) have hatched to expose Apsey as a quack. It was Baldwin’s idea to have Frank, a freelance writer, pose as a self-doubting subject and document the doc’s nefarious practices.

What neither Frank nor Baldwin anticipate is Apsey’s brilliance, and his means for turning words and arguments around, so that, eventually, Frank begins to truly doubt himself. Apsey catches Frank in a series of lies and deceits, which leads to Frank “outing” himself as an investigative reporter, and unhinging Baldwin’s plan to file documented professional charges against Apsey.

Just as each successive session between doctor and patient reveals Frank to be putty in Apsey’s hands, so each exchange between Frank and Baldwin exposes profound flaws in their gay marriage.

The air-tight dramaturgy, with each turn of the screw placing Frank on less sure ground, is generated by a ruthless kind of logic: Frank is a pawn, but the more he’s played with by the shrinks, the more isolated he becomes from them, leading to inevitable but engrossing ethical and emotional ruptures.

Butler has a rare opportunity to explore his considerable acting resources in a performance of corrosive intelligence and disarming subtlety, and he has a fine younger thesp to play off in Miller, who delivers much of Frank’s internal tug-of-war through his active eyes. In the end, there’s a real question of who the heavy is, with Provenza playing Baldwin’s cool game of calculation like a poker master.

Tech credits, though on a slim budget, make for a fine-looking if uneven-sounding vid production.

Popular on Variety

Fixing Frank

Production: A Maximum Vacuum production. Produced by Michael Selditch, Randi Snitz. Directed by Michael Selditch. Screenplay, Ken Hanes, based on his play.

Crew: Camera (color, video), Tamas Bojtor; editor, Randi Snitz; music, Mark Strano; production designer, Selditch; set decoration, Jerry Schwartz; costume designer, Arlynn Wilson; sound, Tammy Douglas. Reviewed on videotape, L.A., July 26, 2001. (In Outfest.) Running time: 103 MIN.

With: Dr. Arthur Apsey - Dan Butler Frank Johnston - Andrew Elvis Miller Dr. Jonathan Baldwin - Paul Provenza

More Film

  • Amanda Awards

    ‘Out Stealing Horses’ Tops Norway’s 2019 Amanda Awards

    HAUGESUND, Norway —  Hans Petter Moland’s sweeping literary adaptation “Out Stealing Horses” put in a dominant showing at Norway’s Amanda Awards on Saturday night, placing first with a collected five awards, including best Norwegian film. Celebrating its 35th edition this year, the Norwegian industry’s top film prize helped kick off the Haugesund Film Festival and [...]

  • Editorial use onlyMandatory Credit: Photo by

    Richard Williams, 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' Animator, Dies at 86

    Renowned animator Richard Williams, best known for his work on “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” died Friday at his home in Bristol, England, Variety has confirmed. He was 86. Williams was a distinguished animator, director, producer, author and teacher whose work has garnered three Oscars and three BAFTA Awards. In addition to his groundbreaking work as [...]

  • Instinct

    Locarno Film Review: 'Instinct'

    Now that “Game of Thrones” has finally reached its conclusion, releasing its gifted international ensemble into the casting wilds, will Hollywood remember just what it has in Carice van Houten? It’s not that the statuesque Dutch thesp hasn’t been consistently employed since her startling 2006 breakout in Paul Verhoeven’s “Black Book,” or even that she’s [...]

  • Good Boys Movie

    Box Office: 'Good Boys' Eyes Best Original Comedy Opening of 2019

    Universal’s “Good Boys” is surpassing expectations as it heads toward an estimated $20.8 million opening weekend at the domestic box office following $8.3 million in Friday ticket sales. That’s well above earlier estimates which placed the film in the $12 million to $15 million range, marking the first R-rated comedy to open at No. 1 [...]

  • Pedro Costa’s 'Vitalina Varela' Wins at

    Pedro Costa’s 'Vitalina Varela' Triumphs at Locarno Film Festival

    The 72nd Locarno Film Festival drew to a close Saturday with Portuguese auteur Pedro Costa’s dark and detached film “Vitalina Varela” coming away with several awards together with superlatives from segments of the hardcore cinephile crowd, including jury president Catherine Breillat. In announcing the Golden Leopard prize for the film, as well as best actress [...]

  • Vitalina Varela

    Locarno Film Review: 'Vitalina Varela'

    Frequently beautiful compositions and the theatrical use of a fierce kind of artifice have long been the hallmarks of Portuguese auteur Pedro Costa, regarded by a small but influential group of aesthetes as one of the great filmmakers of our era. For those in tune with his vision, the director’s films offer an exciting lesson [...]

  • Notre dame

    Locarno Film Review: 'Notre dame'

    Not to be too cynical about it, but might the recent horrific fire in Paris’ cathedral attract audiences to a film in which the gothic gem plays a major role? It’s likely a wiser marketing strategy than promoting the unrelenting silliness of Valerie Donzelli’s oh-so-kooky comedy “Notre dame,” the writer-director-star’s return to contemporary Paris following [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content