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Overall Rating

Awesome: 18.18%
Worth A Look: 27.27%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad54.55%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 5 user ratings

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Frankie in Blunderland
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by Jay Seaver

"Today is stupid... and this movie doesn't help."
2 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2011 BOSTON UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL: It's not uncommon for critics to rate films they see at a festival a little higher than those they see elsewhere, in part because the discussions with the filmmakers afterward help forge a personal connection and often cast the film's shortcomings as things that just couldn't be avoided. In the case of "Frankie in Blunderland", however, I found the opposite happening - director Caleb Emerson said "I don't know" so much that the bits that did work started to seem like random accidents.

Frankie (Aramis Sartorio) seems like an inoffensive enough sort of guy, if a bit quick to tears and slow on the uptake. His wife Katie (Thea Martin) does nothing but sit on the couch watching Spanish-language soap operas while hurling insults at him, and his "friend" Spioch (Brett Hundley) has overstayed his intentions to crash on their couch for a couple days by a couple years. One particularly angry morning, Frankie snaps, clouting Spioch but good; dude looks dead. Later, though, Katie and Spioch are gone, a note left implying they've run off together when in fact Spioch has kidnapped Katie. So Frankie heads out to win her back, or rescue her, or, well, something. The characters frequently state that "today is stupid", and they aren't wrong.

There's all manner of other strangeness in the movie - an android girl, a Mormon with the odd tendency to use the phrase "Earth wife", a butterfly with a human body - with writer Marta Estirado basing the cast on her old friends from high school. They enter and exit almost completely randomly, and while some of these characters could be interesting if dropped into an actual story, they're just in a mess here. Nobody does anything for an actual reason, and while to a certain extent that's commentary on the arbitrary and disappointing nature of life (with cruelty to others being the only way to release that aggravation), it makes for a disjointed, nonsensical story.

Emerson doesn't do much to help give things a shape or even make it an entertainingly structureless picture. During the Q&A, he told stories of how Estirado's script would kill characters on one page and have them show up none the worse for the wear on the next, or how when he called her for clarification on points, she would be certain that he was talking about a character from a different script (sure, similar stories exist for The Big Sleep, but there's a bit of a talent difference between the two projects). Even with a cockeyed, nonsensical world being part of the idea, Emerson hasn't improved enough since Die You Zombie Bastards! to make it sing. Bits that aren't very funny are now only drawn out to the point of annoyance rather than torture, the pacing is leaden, and he's only intermittently able to get something noteworthy from the cast.

Fortunately, the main cast members do have something going for them. Aramis Sartorio, for instance, isn't much of an actor, but he does have a fair amount of dorky charm, and is at least not wooden (a funny adjective to use for an actor the program describes as a "former alt-porn star... a.k.a. Johnny Pistol). Thea Martin's job is to make Katie abrasive an unpleasant, which she does, but she is certainly at least capable of surprising us by pulling a certain amount of humanity out at points. Many of the people playing the various minor characters are much rougher even than Sartorio, but about half are at least well-cast enough to make their screwy characters work.

And to be fair to them, they're probably both the best cast Emerson could scrape together on a microscopic budget and a group of people who were already friends and were enthused to work on a script by a Tulsa punk rocker and artist. This is a fringe production, both for how it involves people with niche appeal and how Emerson mostly does it himself, not only directing but producing, shooting, editing, and doing the visual effects. There's probably a niche out there that this appeals to, but for most, it will probably just come off as cheap, poorly-made nonsense.

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originally posted: 03/31/11 08:05:38
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 Boston Underground Film Festival For more in the 2011 Boston Underground Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/02/11 Deborah Winder "cheap, poorly-made nonsense" I pretty much agree. Loved it! 4 stars
4/02/11 Lorena Ochoa aaaand this takes the cake for biggest pile o' crap i've ever read. I want my 5 mins back!! 5 stars
4/02/11 Hank Dee It's not for everybody. In fact it's not for most people. But what of any value is? 5 stars
4/02/11 Brian Mullen oh i get it, wooden like wood like a boner. hahahahahahahah your jokes suck 4 stars
4/02/11 Gabriel Estirado Jay Seaver obviously didn't get the movie. Watch it for yourself. 4 stars
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Directed by
  Caleb Emerson

Written by
  Marta Estirado

  Aramis Sartorio
  Thea Martin
  Brett Hundley
  Gia Paloma

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