×

Film Review: ‘Being Frank’

Laughs are few and far between in this weak comedy about a bigamist whose son discovers the truth behind his “business trips.”

Director:
Miranda Bailey
With:
Jim Gaffigan, Logan Miller, Samantha Mathis, Alex Karpovsky, Anna Gunn, Hayes MacArthur, Michelle Hurd, Gage Polchlopek, Emerson Tate Alexander.
Release Date:
Jun 14, 2019

Rated R  Running time: 110 MIN.

“Being Frank” isn’t very amusing, which normally would be the most damning thing one might say about an ostensible comedy. But that really isn’t the worst thing about it. There is something ineffably creepy about this contrived and mirthless farce about a demanding family man whose rebellious son discovers his dad has secretly maintained a second family in a nearby town for some 18 years. It’s a premise that could have been played for heavy drama, or even as a horror movie. In this case, however, director Miranda Bailey and writer Glen Lakin strain mightily for laughs without much success, and wind up treating the son’s discovery of his father’s deception, and their subsequent efforts to sustain it, as a bonding experience for them.

Jim Gaffigan plays Frank, the bigamist dad, who exploits his position as CEO of his family-owned ketchup business to take frequent and lengthy “business trips” — to Japan, he claims — that serve as cover stories while he divides his time between his two families. Philip (Logan Miller), the 17-year-old son in what might be called Family No. 1, has long viewed his father as an overbearing control freak, and can’t resist the temptation to sow some wild oats during spring break in a lakeside resort town while Frank is, ahem, away on business.

Shortly after his arrival there, however, Philip spots Frank with Kelly (Isabelle Phillips), a lovely teenager, and assumes his dad is having an affair. The good news: Frank isn’t dallying with an age-inappropriate lover. The bad news: Kelley actually is Frank’s daughter, part of a Family No. 2 that also includes Bonnie (Samantha Mathis), his artistically inclined wife, and Eddie (Gage Polchlopek), his amiable jock son. The worst news: Frank seems a lot nicer, and more loving, when he’s part of this household.

At least, that’s how Philip sizes up the situation when he pays an unannounced visit to his father’s other home, introducing himself as the son of Frank’s best friend (who, of course, no one in Family No. 2 has ever seen) and greatly enjoying the discomfort this causes for Frank. Initially, Philip offers to keep quiet about Frank’s double life if his dad agrees to foot the bill for his attending NYU. But one thing leads to another — though not quickly enough — and soon Philip is involved in efforts to keep his mom (Anna Gunn) and kid sister (Emerson Tate Alexander) from learning the truth when they inconveniently arrive on the scene.

Periodically, “Being Frank” seems poised to lurch into melodrama, or at least soap opera, especially when Frank explains to Phillip how and why he started living double lives — in a scene that gives Gaffigan his one chance to briefly come off as sympathetic — and when Eddie fleetingly indicates he has his own set of daddy issues. But Bailey and Lakin aren’t able to make any of the serious moments at all impactful. (Rest assured, no one ever brings up the fact that bigamy is a crime, not just a plot device, and that Frank could be arrested at any moment.)

As for the funny business, well, it’s not nearly funny enough. Indeed, the movie is littered with scenes — such as a lakeside holiday gathering obviously intended to resemble an al fresco version of a Feydeau farce — that never provide amusing payoff for strenuous build-up. On the other hand, to give credit where it is due: Alex Karpovsky does earn a few chuckles as an over-age stoner who’s pressed into service to pose as Frank’s best buddy. Better still, during one of his character’s rare moments of lucidity, he stops the silliness in its tracks by giving a blunt appraisal of Frank’s (and Philip’s) moral cowardice.

By the way: “Being Frank” (which premiered under the title “You Can Choose Your Family” at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival) is set in 1992, and while there isn’t much in the way of period detail — a vintage pop tune here, a Clinton-Gore campaign poster there — it was probably a good idea to have the story unfold at a time when Google and social media could conceivably make it much more difficult for someone like Frank to maintain separate lives in towns that don’t look like they’re too far apart. Try to imagine another family tagging dad in a Facebook post. That wouldn’t make for a very long movie, would it?

Film Review: ‘Being Frank’

Reviewed online, Houston, July 12, 2019. (In SXSW Film Festival – Narrative Spotlight.) MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 110 MIN. (Original title: “You Can Choose Your Family”)

Production: A Film Arcade release of a Cole Iron Pictures production, in association with Reliance Big Entertainment. Producers: Miranda Bailey, Karen Kehela Sherwood, Amanda Marshall. Executive producers: Deepak Nayar, Shibasish Sarkar.

Crew: Director: Miranda Bailey. Screenplay: Glen Lakin. Camera (color): Yaron Scharf. Editor: Jeffery M. Werner. Music: Craig Richey.

With: Jim Gaffigan, Logan Miller, Samantha Mathis, Alex Karpovsky, Anna Gunn, Hayes MacArthur, Michelle Hurd, Gage Polchlopek, Emerson Tate Alexander.

More Film

  • 'Spider-Man: Far From Home' Review: Tom

    Film Review: 'Spider-Man: Far From Home'

    As the first movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to be released after the shoot-the-works finale of the “Avengers” saga, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” gets to test-drive a crucial question of blockbuster culture, if not movie aesthetics: What does it feel like to watch a Marvel film in a post-Avengers world? Is there anything left [...]

  • Wild Treasures of China

    France's ZED, China's CCTV9 Join Forces on Docu Series 'Wild Treasure of China'

    ZED, the Paris-based production company, is joining forces with CCTV9, the factual channel of the Chinese public broadcaster, to produce “Wild Treasure of China,” a 4K-lensed wildlife documentary series. Lensed in the wild landscape of China, the series will shed light on rare species which are repopulating these areas. More Reviews TV Review: 'The Loudest [...]

  • Picture Tree Intl. Picks Up Carolina

    Picture Tree Intl. Picks Up Carolina Hellsgård's 'Sunburned' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Picture Tree Intl. has acquired the rights to Carolina Hellsgård’s “Sunburned,” the follow-up feature to her zombie drama “Endzeit – Ever After.” PTI will be presenting first footage from the film, currently in post-production, at this year’s German Films Previews (July 3-6). More Reviews TV Review: 'The Loudest Voice' Film Review: 'Spider-Man: Far From Home' [...]

  • Whoopi Goldberg addresses the crowd while

    Inside World Pride's Opening Ceremony: An LGBTQ Celebration With a Tinge of Politics

    World Pride officially kicked off on Wednesday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. About 8,000 people packed into the arena for a three-hour show that began with Cyndi Lauper singing her hit “True Colors.” The performance ended with a gaggle of dancing drag queens who pranced alongside Lauper as she turned the train of [...]

  • Amy Adams (left) as Lynne Cheney

    Film News Roundup: Makeup Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Sets Awards Show for Jan. 11

    In today’s film news roundup, the 2020 awards season schedule gets finalized; AFM will cover immersive content; “Murderous Trance” and “7 Days to Vegas” get acquired; and Kate Katzman has been added to “The Comeback Trail.” AWARDS DATE More Reviews TV Review: 'The Loudest Voice' Film Review: 'Spider-Man: Far From Home' The Makeup Artists & [...]

  • Disney Pandora World Of Avatar, Lake

    The Piano Guys Play 'Avatar' Theme in Disney World (Watch)

    The YouTube sensation The Piano Guys have taken a trip to the world of Pandora for a performance of the theme to “Avatar.” Shot in the bioluminescent floating forest in Disney World, cellist Steven Sharp Nelson and pianist Jon Schmidt put their spin on the score to James Cameron’s 2009 blockbuster. The video immerses the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content