Dances With Films 2015: ‘Hello, My Name Is Frank’ – Film Review

"Hello, my name is Frank. I have Tourette’s.” This is the nametag that Frank (Garrett M. Brown) wears constantly in the film of the same name to explain to strangers why he sporadically bursts into profanity and occasionally barks like a dog. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work very well, and he’s still frequently ostracized for something that he can’t help.

Not only does Frank swear and bark, he also twitches frequently and profusely, making it difficult for him to perform everyday tasks without assistance. So, when Frank’s longtime caretaker dies, her teenage daughter Laura (Rachel DiPillo) is left to find a new one for him—or to do the job herself. The former fails to work out, so Laura is forced to bring Frank along on a road trip with her two best friends, Kim (Mary Kate Wiles) and Alisa (Hayley Kiyoko).

Many of the characters are standard, cookie-cutter archetypes that you’d find in any number of movies like this. Kim, for instance, is an extremely sheltered, uber-religious girl for whom even the mildest of profanities is blasphemous, and the only career option open to her is as a teacher at her church’s elementary school. Alisa, meanwhile, is on the opposite end of the scale: a free spirit whose life is a constant haze of sex, drugs, and partying (ironically, a pretty close approximation of the character that her costar, Wiles, played in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries).

Then, there’s Laura, who’s in the middle of the spectrum. Fairly straitlaced, but not super sheltered, her entire life is defined by Frank and his needs. Much as she wants to go off to college and have a life of her own, she knows she can never do so as long as Frank still needs help. I have a bit of experience with this type of situation myself and found myself relating to Laura’s character quite often. The film is filled with very genuine, often heartbreaking, moments that depict Laura and Frank’s relationship to one another.

Best in the cast is, of course, Garrett M. Brown as Frank. Sometimes funny, sometimes tragic, he really makes you feel for him as he struggles, often hopelessly, to live a normal life. I don’t know how accurate his portrayal of Tourette’s syndrome actually is, but whether it’s spot on or a vague approximation, he creates a very genuine and relatable character, whom you can’t help but like and root for.

Also of note in the cast is Mary Kate Wiles. A very versatile actress, she takes her standard, cookie-cutter role and turns it into something more. She could easily just be “the church girl,” but, instead, she creates a full, three-dimensional character who’s trying to reconcile her lifelong beliefs with a newly expanded view of the world. I felt more invested in Wiles’ character than I did in most of the others, Frank excepted. There are a number of plotlines and character arcs that are left unresolved at the end of the film, but hers was the only one that made me think, “Wait, what happened?”

One problem I had throughout the film was its consistently negative portrayal of religion. In addition to Kim being frequently shown as weak and manipulated by her super-Christian upbringing, there are several other instances of religious characters being portrayed as pretty much the most horrible, closed-minded people on Earth. While admittedly, there are some who are, to depict it as being universally true seems harsh and one-sided.

Aside from a few flaws, though, this is generally a good and worthwhile movie. Sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, it has a very real feel to it which helps to get you invested. All in all, Hello, My Name Is Frank is a film worth checking out.

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