Working from a screenplay by Glen Lakin, seasoned producer Miranda Bailey makes her fiction directorial debut with “Being Frank” (formerly titled “You Can Choose Your Family”), a mostly engaging tragicomedy set in the early ’90s.
Granted one of his most dramatically skewed roles to date, comedic performer Jim Gaffigan plays the title character, a seemingly bland businessman in charge of his family’s ketchup company. Underneath that infallible facade, Frank has trapped himself in a double life, splitting his time between two sets of wives and children for more than 17 years. It’s only when Philip (Logan Miller), his irritable, musically inclined teenage son, unmasks him that the elaborate deception falters.
Even if slightly overwrought, the storyline functions as an amusing dual coming-of-ager where the boy’s quest for parental validation opens the door to the unsavory notion that adults are monumentally flawed, while his cowardly, selfish dad must grapple with the web of lies he’s expertly knitted for so long. Of the two, Miller’s part has the most compelling arc. Gaffigan deals in exaggerated grimaces that shift back and forth from panic to guarded sincerity, which make for most of the movie’s humor aside from some cutting lines by the supporting cast.
Poignant notes of emotional truth float to the surface of this plot-driven tale as father and son, turned into accomplices pretending not to be related in front of others, exploit the detachment of the situation to air their grievances. Their clashes are layered with both disdain and a hunger for understanding in similar quantities. In the end, “Being Frank” neither justifies anyone’s actions nor resorts to absolute condemnation.
Rating: R, for language, some sexual references and drug use
When: Opens Friday
Where: Landmark Hillcrest
Running time: 1 hour, 49 minutes