AWFJ Women On Film – “Frankie & Alice” – Susan Granger reviews

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Academy Award winner Halle Berry stars in this all-too-familiar melodrama about a troubled woman with multiple personalities but what makes it unique is that one of her personas is a bigoted white Southern woman.

It’s 1973, when bright, articulate Frankie Murdoch (Berry) works as a top-earning go-go dancer in a seedy Los Angeles strip club, explaining to a newbie that she survives in these dismal circumstances by ‘distancing’ herself from what she does, observing the leering patrons from what seems to be afar. That begins to explain her erratic behavior pattern which baffles not only her devoted mother (Phylicia Rashad) and resentful sister (Chandra Wilson) but also her boss, who sums Frankie up with an apt description: “Good moves, great tits but pure psycho.”

Yet on more than one baffling occasion, Frankie cannot remember where she is or how she got there, winding up in the hospital Emergency Room. That’s where she meets Dr. Joseph Oswald (Stellan Skarsgard), a researcher/teacher who becomes intrigued with what he senses are multiple personalities emanating from this one woman. There’s confused, defensive Frankie. Then there’s a brilliant but terrified youngster whom Dr. Oswald dubs “Genius,” who is dedicated to protecting Frankie. And there’s also “Alice,” an imperious Southern belle who believes she’s white and is openly disdainful of Frankie, whom she considers to be a promiscuous tramp. Despite the skeptical derision of his psychiatric cohorts, Dr. Oswald is determined to help Frankie cope with her dissociative identity disorder by tapping into her repressed memories.

Screenwriters Mary King, Marko King, Jonathan Winters and others assembled this cliché-riddled script from what appears to be a true case history, yet British director Geoffrey Sax (“White Noise”) sticks to a formulaic, unevenly paced, conventional approach, utilizing flashbacks.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Frankie & Alice” is a curiously uninvolving 6. In the past, similar stories, including “Sybil” and “Three Faces of Eve,” have packed far more of an emotional punch. What’s unusual here is that producer/leading lady, Halle Berry, also comes from a mixed-race background.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.