The new Jim Gaffigan comedy Being Frank is a chump Springtime for Hitler — a terrible idea that someone inexplicably green-lighted. Of course The Producer’s “Springtime for Hitler” is fiction (and the joke is it’s a hit); Being Frank is an actual movie that’s a flop.
The premise: Teenage son, Phillip, discovers his hard-ass father, Frank, has a double life with a wife and kids elsewhere. Instead of blowing Frank’s cover, Phillip blackmails his father… and they bond. (Side plot, his half-sister develops a crush on him.)
After genocidal musical, what bad ideas were left? Slave auction rom-com? Incest action adventure? Oh hey, I know… bigamy hijinks!
Some shit just isn’t funny.
I’m all for laughing at the transgressive and finding the deep veins of humor in fucked up situations (Hello, welcome to my blog…), but the best humor turns power on its ear. It laughs at the powerful and weaponizes snark in the service of underdogs. This is why we make fun of politicians and not crippled children.
Being Frank, however, wants us to sympathize with a sociopath who’s led a 19-year double life. And his son, who has a price for selling out his chump mother — the cost of college tuition. (Hey, what’s conspiring against your mom if its in the service of education?) The women, the chumps here, do they even register? Their sunk costs? The lives they invested, their children?
Chump humiliation is assumed. How retrograde. And this from a woman filmmaker, Miranda Bailey. Of course these two women will pick me dance for the wonderfulness of a cheater and huddle by his hospital bedside. Of course he has a sad sausage excuse for why he did it. Of course his story — and his son’s — are the central stories.
Reading the reviews over at Rotten Tomatoes, not a lot of ick factor about defrauding chumps. (Why would there be? Chumps have invisibility cloaks.) In fact David Ehrlich at Indie Wire gives the movie an Esther Perel-esque seal of approval:
it dares to challenge the basic moral coding that most audiences bring with them into something like this; it dares to remind people that real life is never as black-and-white as we like to pretend it is from the cheap seats.
Cheap seats? Yo, David Ehrlich, let me tell you how much my seat cost. I lived Being Frank. My seat was front row, dead center — mortgage and commitment to a guy who had another family with his mistress. I paid the price of a wedding, a move and a 3500-square foot house, plus the legal fees to buy myself out of that nightmare, and therapy expenses.
You know who has a cheap seat? A film reviewer at Indie Wire. Talk to me about daring to challenge “basic moral coding” after someone steals your wallet or bashes your face into a sidewalk. And then makes a light and cheerful movie praising the edginess of muggers.
Also, Jim Gaffigan, WTF were you thinking? Aren’t you some kind of Catholic with five kids married to a do-gooder wife? Of all the projects pitched to you, you picked this? Weren’t there some industrial training films for mold remediation you could’ve done instead?
I suppose when you’re a guy who looks like a half-melted snowball, leading man pickings are slim. They gave you jolly bigamist. I’d have a word with your agent. Or maybe your wife.
Image credit: From Wikipedia. This is a poster for Being Frank. The poster art copyright is believed to belong to the distributor of the film, The Film Arcade, the publisher of the film or the graphic artist.