Tag Archives: Swiss Army Man

Being Frank

28 Jun

‘Being Frank’: Hiding a whole second family, you’d think that by now he’d be a better dad

 

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It’s a kid-eat-dad kind of a world out there in “Being Frank,” a duplicitous daddy comedy, but hey, sometimes dad doesn’t know best and might even deserve a bit of comeuppance. Set in the early ’90s (you can see cellphones and the Internet ruining some of the narrative ticks), Philip (Logan Miller from “Love Simon”) wants to attend art school in New York; dad (the aptly named Frank, played by comedian Jim Gaffigan) wants him to stick closer to their small-town home – “Stay in state,” he says. Frank himself is never around, always off on business trips to Japan for a ketchup company. In a mini act of rebellion, Phillip runs off during spring break to a nearby lakeside town where he learns dad’s not in Japan, but settling in with his second family. That’s right: Dad’s got big love and two well-seeded clans. Surprisingly, Phillip doesn’t blow the lid off the polygamous do-si-do, but instead uses it to get what he wants. He even helps Frank perpetuate the charade.

Directed by Miranda Bailey, whose credits as a producer include indie comedies that similarly go to places few would (“Swiss Army Man” and “The Diary of a Teenage Girl”), “Being Frank” in execution feels a bit staged and ham-fisted at times – think “Meatballs” if it tried to play it straight. Inconsistent lurches between romp comedy and soap opera melodrama detract as the plot noose tightens and the truth closes in on Frank. The one heartfelt light in all the household-shuffling madness (talk about multitasking) is the bond that forms between father and son. Granted, it’s not born from traditional roots such as golfing or an investment club, but at least it’s a common goal and the two forge a secret language to keep it all clicking along.

You can’t fault Bailey for going after such ripe comedic fruit, and Gaffigan goofs it up enough to make his lout empathetic, but overall “Being Frank” feels underdone – like some of the jokes and situational comedy needed to be hashed out more, or perhaps required a second or third take to get right. It’s worth acknowledging the supporting cast, which includes Samantha Mathis as one of the wives, Alex Karpovsky as Frank’s stoner buddy with gonzo suggestion and a sassy Isabelle Phillips as one of Frank’s daughters. They do their part to hold the leaky dramedy afloat.

Swiss Army Man

7 Jul

Flatulence abounds in Swiss Army Man, a surreal curio straight out of Sundance. I shit you not.

Daniel Radcliffe, the fresh-faced young lad who brought Harry Potter to life, plays a dead body named Manny who washes ashore and ass burps his way through the film, spouting more gas than lines — and yes, he talks. How’s that, you might ask. It’s a qualified answer and one of the many enigmatic facets and WTFs of Swiss Army Man that along with a limitless stale rush of methane, drives the film piquantly along.

To its benefit, the film revels in its weird comic absurdity. It’s never as existential or nihilistic as something more flatlined and high-brow like Waiting for Godot, but it does feel freely mined from the cranium of Michael Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) had he been locked up in solitary with nothing but a stack of Mad magazines to pass the day. At its palpable core,Swiss Army Man is a buddy film and a touching one at that without ever submerging into the maudlin, though its arc could have been better tempered given the myriad of Sundance incubator labs it went through — it won the festival’s directing award this year after all.

We begin with a nearly unrecognizable Paul Dano, bearded and grossly weathered by the sun and sea, as Hank, a man who we assume has been stranded on an island for a long enough period of time to let the destitute of loneliness consume him to the point of wanting to off himself. Standing on an ice chest, noose around his neck, Hank’s about to do the deed when Manny arrives in the briny surf. The sight of another fellow human gives Hank pause, but his attempts to revive Manny just brings around gurgling gushes of gas. The next thing you know, Hank’s jet boarding across the ocean atop Manny, driven by sphincter propulsion.  Continue reading