Ron Perlman plays Phyllis in Frankie Go Boom.
AUSTIN, Texas — Remember that time your brother got out of rehab, videotaped your really uncomfortable sexual encounter with a woman you just met, and then the video found its way onto the internet? And you had to get it off, so to speak, before the girl found out?
No? Well, in frankie go boom, Frankie does, and it’s not necessarily something he’s excited about. Which is why the tale of Frankie (Sons of Anarchy’s Charlie Hunnam) and his sex tape is so damn funny. When he finds out that his brother Bruce (Chris O’Dowd) taped a tryst with Lassie (Lizzy Caplan) that he had with her after she passed out drunk in the street, things get really crazy (yes, “get” crazy — the crazy hasn’t even begun at this point).
“Welcome to my midlife crisis,” frankie writer/director Jordan Roberts said when introducing his film at South by Southwest, as a way of explaining where the film’s outlandishness originated.
Midlife crisis for Roberts, but real-life crises for his characters. The chaos that ensues as Frankie tries to retrieve his kind-of-sexy sex tape (in which he doesn’t give, um, his best performance, if you know what we mean) is as awkward as it is awesome.
First, Frankie finds out his brother has also given a DVD of the video to washed-up actor Jack (Chris Noth), whom Bruce met in rehab. Then, when the brothers go to Jack’s house to retrieve it, they find out Jack is Lassie’s father, which explains why she was outside Bruce’s rehab graduation. (Whoops!) Needless to say, it only gets more psychologically damaging and insanely comedic from there.
“I have a brother who is now my sister, or a sister who used to be my brother.”
More than anything, though, frankie is a chance for some otherwise very serious actors to let loose in one very crazy film. From Noth — known most recently for his brooding work on TV’s The Good Wife running on a treadmill in nothing but a jockstrap — to motorcycle-riding Sons of Anarchy badass Hunnam as the kicked-around shy-guy Frankie, everyone is bringing a different kind of A-game than what they’ve been doing lately. Even O’Dowd and Caplan, veterans of indie comedies, are pushing what they normally do to the limit (Caplan has at least one particular meltdown that is just golden).
But the icing on the cake, the surprise that Roberts keeps audiences waiting almost an hour for is Ron Perlman’s turn as post-op transsexual Phyllis. It’s the kind of “oh-look-Hellboy-is-a-girl” kind of casting that could be played for poor taste and cheap laughs, but Phyllis’ relationship with Frankie actually becomes the heart of the tale, and Perlman turns in a surprising and sensitive performance.
And it’s no surprise the story and characters are as good as they are, considering at least some of them are derived from Roberts’ real life.
“I have a brother who is now my sister, or a sister who used to be my brother,” Roberts said at his film’s screening. “I have a brother who is no longer with us, so there is addiction in our family, and that’s definitely in play here [in the film].”
And with that ring of truth, Roberts has orchestrated a film so outrageous, funny, sad and bizarre, it actually looks a lot like life. And goes out with a bang.