Being Frank, directed by Miranda Bailey, is a feel-good comedy about college-bound Philip, who, fed up by his strict, emotionally distant father, sneaks out during spring break with his friend Lewis and accidentally discovers his father’s biggest secret. Shocked and conflicted by his father’s second family, Pat becomes an unwitting accomplice to the lie. Will Frank be able to keep up the facade– or lose both families for good? (BV 3.0/5.0)
Review by Junior Associate Beatrice Viri
In Being Frank, protagonist Philip Hansen (Logan Miller) is in his last year of high school, and desires an eventful senior year before he goes off to college– hopefully to NYU, his dream school, so he can escape his middle-of-nowhere town and absentee father, Frank (Jim Gaffigan). However, Frank makes up for his frequent business trips with authoritarianism, refusing to let Phil go to their town’s local lakeside festival, and would rather he attend college locally. Seeing this as hypocritical, Phil sneaks out with his friend Lewis (Daniel Rashid) while his father leaves for a business trip in Japan.
Their last spring break is supposed to be one spent hitting on girls, but things take a turn when Phil spots his dad approaching a waitress (Isabelle Phillips) Lewis failed to hit on. Mortified, Phil follows him and the results are even worse than expected— the girl, Kelly, is his half-sister, and Frank has another family. Driven by horrified curiosity, Phil knocks on their door, catching Frank red-handed— and uses this opportunity to blackmail him into going away for college. In return, he’s roped into becoming his father’s accomplice to preserve the facade Frank’s prolonged for almost 20 years. But will the two be able to maintain the lie, or is this finally the last straw?
So Being Frank doesn’t exactly try to justify cheating— Frank eventually pays the consequences and is punished severely. Frank is portrayed as human, flawed but “well-meaning” at heart, simply making the mistake of falling in love with two women. However, movies commonly have this recurring theme of a “good” man who cheats on his wife for complicated reasons. I’m not saying that the reverse is particularly good, because cheating will always be morally reprehensible, but women always end up being accessories to a man’s angst and are barely fleshed out themselves. Plus, the movie only covers Frank’s feelings and barely scrapes the surface of how he ruined two women’s autonomy and lives. Though his wives are somewhat nuanced, and there’s subtle hinting at Laura’s, Philip’s mother’s (Anna Gunn), unhappiness (such as the detail of her reading “Men go to Jupiter, Women go to Mars”) Being Frank barely serves an exception. Female characters are becoming more fleshed out, but still, we need more of them to be humanized like men are— like how Frank is.
Phil’s sympathy, of how quick he was to support Frank, is also borderline disturbing when Frank has been lying to him his whole life. But Being Frank is focused primarily on their bond, and perhaps Phil truly is his father’s son— or Frank is just a master manipulator. With those inhibitions aside, the plot could have potential as a drama or even dark-comedy. Instead, it’s a sitcom riddled with cheap and sometimes ill-timed jokes. They’ll crack out a few exasperated laughs, but most aren’t memorable.
Don’t get me wrong, though. Being Frank isn’t that bad if you’re looking for something to play in the background. The production value isn’t too shabby, and the women are probably the highlight of the film with their emotional acting (though they’re tossed aside). Maybe the lingo is a bit too modern for a film set in the 90’s, but sprinkled in happy LGBT representation is also a plus compared to actual films 20 years ago. That’s probably the only semi-unique aspect of this movie, though— otherwise, Being Frank is painfully average at best.
© Beatrice Viri FF2 Media 06/28/2019
Photos: Being Frank promotional poster,; Jim Gaffigan as Frank, Logan Miller as Philip, Alex Karpovsky as Lewis’s uncle, and Emerson Tate Alexander as Lib, Philip’s younger sister in Being Frank
Photo Credits: Kelly A. Cook, Jon Pack
Does Being Frank pass the Bechdel-Wallace test?
No— the primary focus is Frank and Pat’s relationship. There are very few conversations between two women, and it’s almost always about the men.