Is is possible for a movie to peak with its description in a film festival announcement? That was the question in Austin on Saturday night at South by Southwest going into the premiere of the "frankie go boom," screening as part of the Narrative Spotlight section.
The film had begun generating buzz when it was first announced for the Texas festival, not because of filmmaking pedigree or talent attached, but rather for the oddly worded, quizzically spelled, poorly punctuated and slightly vulgar description that accompanied it -- "A flick by bruce about his little brother frank who's a crybaby ... who shouldn't do ... embarrassing ... if he dozn't want people to 2 see it." For anyone who has had it with another family reunion/weekend wedding/road trip log-line, it was just weird enough to be refreshing.
"Welcome to my mid-life crisis," said writer-director Jordan Roberts, a longtime screenwriter whose credits include the narration to "The March of the Penguins," while introducing the film. With an enviable cast that includes Chris O'Dowd, Charlie Hunnam, Lizzy Caplan, Ron Perlman, Chris Noth and Whitney Cummings, one might expect a packed red carpet, but none of the cast were in attendance.
"I'm sorry the actors aren't here," said Roberts, "but they are all working. They don't hate me."
The story centers on two brothers, Frankie and Bruce. Frankie (Hunnam) is trying to live down the disgrace of not only finding out that his fiancee had been cheating on him as their wedding was underway, but also that his brother Bruce (O'Dowd) posted a video of his subsequent meltdown on the Internet. Bruce is struggling to overcome addiction issues and reenters Frankie's life just as Frankie is meeting a woman (Caplan) he might have a real chance with. When Bruce uploads another video and complications ensue.
The wild farce went over well in the room. Citing "Borat," "Flirting With Disaster" and "Some Like It Hot" as his main influences in writing the story, Roberts said during the post-screening Q&A that, "I wanted to make a comedy about second chance, in love, second chance in whatever the thing you got slapped down at, and I was fascinated by humiliation and challenging humiliation."
The inevitable question about whether he has a real-life sibling yielded an interesting response, given that the film centers around two brothers, one an addict, as well as a colorful and tender transgender character played by Ron Perlman.
"I have a brother who is now my sister, or a sister who used to be my brother," said Roberts, "and I have a brother who is no longer with us. So there is addiction in our family, and that's definitely in play here. I feel like these two characters are as much me as they are my brother and I. I am both a rabid, despicable, hungry, voracious quester for fame and I am also a shy, withholding guy who wants to be in the background. So I'm both Frank and Bruce."
-- Mark Olsen, reporting from Austin, Texas
Photo: Charlie Hunnam and Chris O'Dowd in "frankie go boom." Credit: Courtesy of South by Southwest Film Festival