Saturday, February 27, 2021     Volume: 21, Issue: 52
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Santa Maria Sun / Film

This weeks review
BEST WISHES, WARMEST REGARDS: A SCHITT’S CREEK FAREWELL
BINGABLE: ABANDONED (2016)
BINGEABLE: BARRY
BINGEABLE: FLEABAG
BINGEABLE: NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC DOCUMENTARIES
BINGEABLE: OUTLANDER (2014-present)
BINGEABLE: STRANGER THINGS 3
BINGEABLE: THE SINNER (SEASON 2)
BLAST FROM THE PAST: RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981)
BLAST FROM THE PAST: THE MATRIX
BLAST FROM THE PAST: THE PRESTIGE (2006)
BLAST FROM THE PAST: WILD AT HEART (1990)
BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM
DA 5 BLOODS
ENOLA HOLMES
FIRST COW
GUILTY PLEASURES: CHEER (2020)
HAVE A GOOD TRIP: ADVENTURES IN PSYCHEDELICS
HEARST CASTLE: BUILDING THE DREAM
I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS
JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH
LET HIM GO
LYING AND STEALING
PALMER
SHUT UP LITTLE MAN! AN AUDIO MISADVENTURE (2011)
SOUL
SUPERINTELLIGENCE
THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM
THE DIG
THE LITTLE THINGS
THE MIDNIGHT SKY
THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN
THE WHITE TIGER
THE WOLF OF SNOW HOLLOW
TREAD
TV REVIEW: BATES MOTEL
TV REVIEW: BOSCH
TV REVIEW: DEFENDING JACOB
TV REVIEW: EVIL
TV REVIEW: FEAR CITY
TV REVIEW: HELL ON WHEELS (2011-2016)
TV REVIEW: HOMECOMING
TV REVIEW: HOW TO WITH JOHN WILSON
TV REVIEW: I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE
TV REVIEW: I MAY DESTROY YOU
TV REVIEW: I’LL BE GONE IN THE DARK
TV REVIEW: LENOX HILL
TV REVIEW: LITTLE AMERICA
TV REVIEW: LOVECRAFT COUNTRY
TV REVIEW: MRS. AMERICA
TV REVIEW: ONE MISSISSIPPI
TV REVIEW: PAINTING WITH JOHN (2021)
TV REVIEW: RAMY
TV REVIEW: RUN
TV REVIEW: SEARCH PARTY
TV REVIEW: SPACE FORCE
TV REVIEW: TABOO
TV REVIEW: THE BOYS
TV REVIEW: THE END OF THE F***ING WORLD
TV REVIEW: THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT
TV REVIEW: THE LAST KINGDOM
TV REVIEW: THE MIDNIGHT GOSPEL
TV REVIEW: THE MORNING SHOW
TV REVIEW: THE MOST DANGEROUS ANIMAL OF ALL
TV REVIEW: THE NEW YORK TIMES PRESENTS FRAMING BRITNEY SPEARS (EPISODE 6) (2021)
TV REVIEW: THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA
TV REVIEW: THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT
TV REVIEW: THE THIRD DAY
TV REVIEW: THE VOW
TV REVIEW: TREADSTONE (2019)
TV REVIEW: UNDONE
TV REVIEW: WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS
TV REVIEW: ZEROZEROZERO
UNCLE FRANK
UNDERRATED: BATMAN BEGINS (2005)
UNDERRATED: THE BATTERED BASTARDS OF BASEBALL (2014)

Uncle Frank offers nuanced family drama

UNCLE FRANK

PHOTO BY , COURTESY OF AMAZON STUDIOS

UNCLE FRANK


Where is it playing?: Amazon Prime

What's it rated?: R

What's it worth?: $Full price (Glen Starkey)

What's it worth?: $Full price (Anna Starkey)

User Rating: 0.00 (0 Votes)

Writer-director Alan Ball (screenwriter of American Beauty) helms this comedy-drama about the Bledsoe family of Creekville, South Carolina. Set mostly in the early 1970s, it’s the story of Frank (Paul Bettany), who’s secretly gay, and his niece, Beth (Sophia Lillis), who feels most akin to Frank—a quiet, thoughtful man amid Southern rednecks. Frank escaped small-town Southern life and teaches literature at an NYC college, where Beth now attends as a freshman. Beth’s father, Mike (Steve Zahn), is a classic Southerner, but the patriarch of the family—Frank and Mike’s father, Daddy Mac (Stephen Root)—is a cruel, closed-minded bigot. When Daddy Mac dies of a sudden heart attack, Frank agrees to drive home with Beth to attend the funeral. Unbeknownst to them, Frank’s boyfriend of 10 years, Walid “Wally” Nadeem (Peter Macdissi), rents a car and follows them, hoping to lend emotional support to Frank. Mixing flashbacks to Frank’s younger years (young Frank played by Cole Dorman), we see what the trauma of repression and closeted sexuality has wrought on Frank’s life. (95 min.)

Glen: This warm, openhearted film works as both a coming-of-age story for Beth and a cathartic story of reconciliation for Frank. It opens with a family gathering at the Bledsoe’s Southern home. Frank is clearly different from his brother and father, and that difference draws Beth to him. She—like he—is smart enough to escape the repressive and closed-minded South, and he encourages her to apply for colleges. She ends up at the very same one he teaches at in New York, and it’s not too long before Beth discovers Frank’s secret. He’s gay and has been in a long-term relationship with Wally, a Muslim man with his own secrets he’s keeping from his family. That’s the setup, but the real story starts and unfolds with the road trip to attend Daddy Mac’s funeral, when Frank and Beth continue to bond, Frank and Wally work through relationship difficulties, and Frank confronts his past and a tragic event he blames himself for, which has driven him to return to his alcoholic ways. It’s both laugh-out-loud funny and grab-your-tissues tender—a wonderful story about the limitations of tolerance and the family ties than bind.

Anna: It definitely pulls at the heartstrings. Frank is somewhat of a tragic figure. He’s essentially cut ties with his family and lives every day trying to pretend his past doesn’t exist. Whether that means distracting himself with booze or teaching or his relationship with Wally, he has no intention of revisiting his early life in a backwards-thinking small town with a brute of a father. There’s a clear spark between himself and Beth though; her bright ambition and openness coupled with her small-town naivete are incredibly charming. Lillis is wonderful here—there is a tangible earnestness to her character and in her performance. I expect to see more great things from her in the future. I also loved Macdissi as Wally, a tender and funny caretaker to Frank even as he descends into his cycle of alcoholism and abuse. Frank isn’t always a nice guy, and Wally gives back with compassion and grace even in the dark times. This film touched me big time. I’ve been recommending it to everyone.

Glen: The performances are terrific, and it’s got the always dependable Margo Martindale as Frank’s mom, Mammaw. She exudes such kindness in the role, the perfect foil to Daddy Mac, who can’t mask his contempt for Frank. I’m sure the only reason Frank ever comes home is for his mother and Beth. As for Bettany, he’s incredible here—a career-defining portrayal of a man haunted by a past tragedy. Uncle Frank is definitely a melodrama, but Frank and Wally’s relationship is so moving and beautiful, and you’re right, Macdissi is also amazing here. Even Root’s Daddy Mac is a performance to behold. Great acting, a wonderful and deeply emotive story, and an honest ending combine to make this a fantastic family drama. Highly recommended!

Anna: Frank alienates himself as a form of protection, but when Wally and Beth and Mammaw all force him to see that he actually is wanted, loved, and appreciated, those walls have to come down at least a little bit. There’s no “the world is great now and homophobia doesn’t exist!” ending here, but there is resolve. This film was simply really well cast—as you said, this is a career-defining role for Bettany; he’s so nuanced and incredible here. It’s one I’ll definitely be watching again. The way the story and Frank’s past is parsed out to us keeps the melodrama from feeling too slow, and there are moments that had me gasping, crying, laughing—it’s a whirlwind of emotion for sure! Catch this on Amazon—it’s worth renting even if you don’t have a Prime subscription.

New Times Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey and freelancer Anna Starkey write Sun Screen. Glen compiles streaming listings. Comment at gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.










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Where do you stand on youth sports during the pandemic?

It's too soon—we're still living in a pandemic.
Low-contact sports are one thing, football and basketball are another.
Getting any kids back on the field is a step in the right direction.
They should have been allowed back months ago; our youth need sports.

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