Movie Review: Being Frank (2018)

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Alternate Title: You Can Choose Your Family

Being Frank is a film for people who wonder about the road not traveled, who question what would have happened if they married their last sweetheart, or think about what their life might be like if they'd stayed in their old house... and like to laugh while they do.

Centered on a man who never has to ask those questions because he's living both answers, Being Frank is about a man with two families and the teenage son who finds out.

Framed as a comedy with Frank's high school senior son Philip (Logan Miller) as the central protagonist, from its earliest moments, director Miranda Bailey's Being Frank feels like the kind of independent teen movie that would've been playing at the local theater in spring break of '92, which is when events take place.

An understated work driven by its characters as well as the film's unique conflict, Frank finds Philip getting much more than he bargained for when he and his best friend sneak away without permission and go up to the lake for spring break.

Spotting his dad (the eponymous Frank played by Jim Gaffigan) chatting up a teenage beauty when he's supposed to be far away on business, Philip follows the pair only to realize that she's not his mistress but his daughter instead.

Living what (to the casual observer) looks like a duplicate life only to find that in this house his father's more trusting, laid-back, and attentive, Philip decides to drop by and blackmail Frank by giving him a taste of his own medicine.

A challenging premise to get right and one that makes it doubly difficult to know which tone to strike, perhaps owing to her background as a documentary filmmaker, Miranda Bailey deftly navigates the human terrain, balancing teen movie laughs with mature pathos.

While Glen Lakin's script does admittedly leap-frog over some of the film's messiest unseen but necessary conversations in a slightly rushed final act, the evolution of the relationship between father and son and the beautiful autumn coda to the chaotic days of spring break wins us over in the end.

Sure to appeal to fans of Little Miss Sunshine and The Way, Way Back, Being Frank features a surprisingly moving performance by Gaffigan as the conflicted dual family man. Also boasting terrific support by Anna Gunn and Samantha Mathis as Frank's two wives, despite a few narrative shortcuts here and there, as a tale of two families, Being Frank is a daring and mostly successful endeavor crafted with wit, sincerity, and heart.

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