Movie Review - Frankie & Alice

Halle Berry played an exotic dancer in The Last Boy Scout (1991). She does so again here. Berry stars as Francine L. Murdoch, aka Frankie, a stripper in 1970's Los Angeles. After having two very intense episodes, Frankie is put into a mental institution. Stellan Skarsgård co-stars as Dr. Oswald, aka Oz, the therapist who studies and tries to help her.

Despite the confusion of her sister, played by Chandra Wilson, and the denial of her mother, played by Phylicia Rashad, it's revealed that Frankie has Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), or multiple personalities. The hook here is that while Frankie is African-American, one of her personalities is a Caucasian racist.

Halle Berry played a Caucasian in reality in Cloud Atlas (2012), as well as other characters of various ethnicities and bigotries, so again she's repeating herself. The challenge here is that she's not aided with makeup or special effects. Directed by Geoffrey Sax, the signature scene is one long, continuous take where Berry sits in a chair and cycles through Frankie's different personalities.

The problem is that the majority of the movie takes place in an institution, so Berry's performance is meant to draw attention to itself. Her performance in Cloud Atlas isn't. She's meant to disappear into her characters, which she does. Here, it's a different story. Written by Cheryl Edwards, Marko King, Mary King, Jonathan Watters, Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse, and based on true events, the relationship between Frankie and Oz, as well as the politics of Oz's job are less important. The origin of Frankie's disorder is.

The film keeps that origin a mystery or else a late, third-act reveal as to be a shock. This was perhaps a mistake. The origin could have been revealed mid-way through the second act. Instead of the third act being about shocking surprises, it could have been about digging deeper into Frankie's relationships with her family and her alters.

I suppose an African-American version of United States of Tara is what I would have preferred. Given the hook, a black woman with a personality that thinks she's white could have been a good metaphor for being biracial in America. The wrestling of multiple personalities is something with which biracial people who don't have Frankie's disorder say they struggle.

This movie misses that obvious metaphor. Specific thoughts were in mind but deeper thoughts were overlooked.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated R for some sexual content, language and drug use.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 41 mins.

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