Halle Berry's identity crisis: 'Frankie & Alice' hits the small screen

  • Article by: ROB NELSON , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 8, 2014 - 1:05 PM

Halle Berry had hoped to win awards for a drama shot six years ago that is finally coming out on VOD.

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Halle Berry in “Frankie & Alice.”

Photo: SERGEI BACHLAKOV,

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Featuring Halle Berry as a 1970s go-go dancer with dissociative identity disorder, “Frankie & Alice” has something of a split personality itself, being alternately fascinating and just plain weird. In fact, befitting its heroine’s particular affliction, that’s not even the half of it.

Adapted by six screenwriters from a strange but true story, “Frankie & Alice” is bizarre for other reasons. Shot in 2008, the film was released to a single theater in 2010 with the hope of garnering award nominations for Berry, who co-produced it. Then it sat on the shelf three years before playing in a few cities in April. Now the movie is scheduled to be available on demand starting Tuesday, although given its checkered past, one can’t be sure.

If nothing else, the film succeeds in supplying Berry, an Oscar winner for “Monster’s Ball,” with another showboat role — or roles, rather. Most of the time, she’s jive-talkin’ Frankie, dancing for dollars at a seedy L.A. strip club and nursing a serious addiction to Hostess Ding Dongs. Periodically, as Frankie’s vision starts to blur and her hearing gets muffled, she becomes Alice, a white Southern racist with a violent temper. Finally, on the couch of a nobly intentioned “nuthouse” doctor (Stellan Skarsgård), she occasionally believes she’s a 7-year-old girl with a genius IQ.

A scholarly paper probably could be written on the myriad ways in which “Frankie & Alice” mirrors its star’s struggle to maintain a stable identity in a crazy industry. For most viewers, though, the film is simply ludicrous, if not without value as a case study in deranged entertainment. When the good doctor seeks to reassure Frankie/Alice/Schoolgirl with the words, “You’re not alone,” even the clinically depressed will find it hard not to giggle.

Also notable on VOD

A far more indelible portrait of an unusual character, the documentary “The Dog” (on VOD starting Friday) tells the true story of self-described “pervert” John Wojtowicz, the Brooklyn bank robber whom Al Pacino played so memorably in Sidney Lumet’s “Dog Day Afternoon.”

Co-directors Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren could have easily rested on their talking-head footage of Wojtowicz, who’s hilarious and moving as he recounts the circumstances behind his audacious attempt to finance his lover’s sex-reassignment surgery in 1972. But the filmmakers go further, using excellent archival material to flesh out the endlessly intriguing politics of the time. Amazingly, “The Dog” shows the Wojtowicz case is even richer than Lumet had begun to suggest.

Speaking of documentary film, the field lost a giant late last month with the passing of Robert Drew, whose pioneering work in American cinéma vérité included his production of the monumental “Primary” in 1960. That movie, which follows JFK through teeming crowds of his supporters, remains unavailable on VOD. But iTunes does have “Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment” (1963), which Drew shot with the participation of his subject, who had seen “Primary” and, naturally, loved it.

 

Send questions or comments to Rob Nelson at VODcolumn@gmail.com.

  • TOP 10 MOVIES ON DEMAND

    1 “Heaven Is for Real”

    2 “Transcendence”

    3 “Sabotage”

    4 “Tyler Perry’s The Single Moms Club”

    5 “Bad Words”

    6 “The Lego Movie”

    7 “300: Rise of an Empire”

    8 “Rio 2”

    9 “Lone Survivor”

    10 “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

    Source: Rentrak Corp. (July 21-27)

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