Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Monday, July 06, 2009


Franklyn-stein - good bits sewn together with some dead parts

Kind of an anti-Fisherking, the British movie, 'Franklyn', follows four apparently disconnected stories to a point where they all inevitably intersect. What sets things askew is that one of those stories is set in the fantastical city of Meanwhile, where Ryan Philippe plays a costumed loner at odds with his religion-riddled environment. In the other tales, Eva Green plays a suicide-obsessed artist, Sam Riley tries to recover from being jilted at the altar, and Bernard Hill searches for his missing war veteran son.
This is director Gerald McMorrow's first feature and though competent, his inexperience shows in some distinctly sub-Matrix fight scenes. More crucially, his competence as a screenwriter is also tested and it is in this that the film falls.
The problem is a.) his 'real-world' stories are too slender, too sketchy and too uninvolving, while b.) his 'Meanwhile' strand demands your attention, distracting from the others. Who wants to see Eva Green, all dippy and depressed, indulging in half-hearted suicide attempts, when you can see Philippe (looking like a cross between Watchmen's Rorschach and 'The Nightmare Before Christmas's Jack Skellington) hunting religious fanatics in a grotesque version of London. (Which is not to say fair Eva isn't shaping up to be the next Helena Bonham Carter rather well.) 'Meanwhile', with its backstory of a land dominated by religions, thousands of them (eg. The Seventh Day Manicurists, or a cult devoted to washing machine manuals), is crying out throughout the movie for more screentime. I'm not sure if McMorrow could deliver if he was to make a Meanwhile film (look at the sadly underwhelming 'Mirrormask' for what it might become), but it's a movie I would prefer to 'Franklyn'.
The cast is good. Green certainly does her usual scowling, but occasionally shows signs of some previously unsuspected acting muscles. Sam Riley, apparently excellent in the Ian Curtis biopic, 'Control', (I haven't seen it yet), is just a little too wimpy here, but his romantic tale is hardly a strong foundation for any performance of power. He gets by. The always reliable Bernard Hill bumbles around well too, but ultimately we just don't know enough about him to really care.
One thing I did like was the discrepancy between the subjective experience and the objective reality, something very central to the film's theme. The heroic is very easily flipped into the villainous, and vice versa, simply by changing perspective, instantly adding a dimension to the film that almost lifts it out of the ordinary. However, this aspect of the film is hardly a surprise and I for one had the 'twist' worked out very early on. Which brings us right back to a script that though it believes itself original, is actually patched together from many other (better) films before it. The ending itself ultimately sews things together a little too neatly.
There's a lot going on then, but in the end it boils down to a neatly played thesis on the power of fantasy versus the demands, and magic, of reality itself. Simple though this theme might be, it is a strong one and worth a movie (which is probably why we have 'The Fisherking' already). 'Franklyn' says its piece well, but never well enough to be really memorable. Well, except for Meanwhile....

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