Film Review: Frankie & Alice

Halle Berry struts her performance stuff as a multiple-personality stripper.

It's not often that Spike TV and The Lifetime Channel might be interested in the same production. Well, if you've got Halle Berry playing a stripper with multiple personalities, the venue possibilities are multitudinal.

With Berry cast in the role of a sex-crazed stripper, Frankie & Alice (on the shelf since 2010) should entice male viewers, but aesthetic-minded menfolk will grouse about Berry's cautious stripper costumes—it's set in the ’70s—and its surprising lack of sizzle. Overall, Frankie & Alice is a well-wrought psychological drama that delves into the dark side of one woman's psyche.

Berry is spellbinding as Frankie, a young L.A. exotic dancer. If stripping for a living weren't chaotic enough, Frankie is plagued by gigantic personality swings: She switches from hard-drinking, promiscuous lady of the night to a teetotaling, racist Southern white belle and, to boot, a genius-level kid. Not surprisingly, this lands her in a lot of trouble, personally and legally.

Crammed into a public psych ward after an "episode," Frankie is left in the care of an emotionally drained psychiatrist (Stellan Skarsgård). The good doctor is a former LSD "researcher" who is still trying to plug into another reality. Down to basic prognosis, however, he's essentially a mope who medicates with tuna sandwiches, jazz and liquor. Frankie gets his professional and personal juices flowing again.

In her terms, Frankie thinks she's crazy; in the doc's lingo, she's a wonderful specimen—someone who reaches other realities through her own chemical dysfunction. In a sense, they are a perfect doctor-patient match. And, each could cure the other.

Although six scribes credited with the screenplay usually predicts erratic story and mood swings, Frankie does not suffer from multiple-writer disorder. Both clinically and dramatically, it's an engaging titillation despite a somewhat flat last half-hour. Throughout, its exhibitionist proclivities are evened out under director Geoffrey Sax's astute guidance and the intelligent, nuanced performances of Berry and Skarsgård.

In addition, the supporting performances are rock-solid, particularly Phylicia Rashad's steadfast portrayal of Frankie's supportive but enabling mother.
Scoped in a hard-noir style, with mean-streets Canada standing in for Los Angeles, Frankie & Alice is a technically well-balanced entertainment.

The Hollywood Reporter

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