5-Word 365 #086 – Franklyn

After yesterday’s fun at the trailer park, we’re moving on to some big city Dystopian sci-fi today. Or are we?

Franklyn

Good effort. Must try harder.

Four separate stories across two separate realities collide in the debut feature from writer/director Gerald McMorrow. In London: a man named Peter Esser searches for his missing son; Emilia, an art student, videotapes her suicide attempts for an installation; and Milo, a young man left at the altar, hunts for the memory of his first love. Meanwhile in, um, Meanwhile City, a masked vigilante detective named Preest plots the assassination of the individual responsible for the death of a girl he was meant to protect.

This movie is pretty hard to review in five words, but I can manage it in three: ambitious but flawed. For a debut feature, that ambition is to be applauded. There aren’t a lot of filmmakers who would have the balls and the imagination to try to lead off a career with a story like this, and fair play to McMorrow for the effort. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work as intended. Besides the somewhat overcooked script, a major problem with the film as far as I’m concerned is the casting of Sam Riley. I haven’t seen Control (through choice – sorry, but Joy Division just depress me) so I don’t have that performance in my head to compare this to, but his Milo is not much more than a whiney little boy dressed like a grown up. He’s irritating, and it ruined his part of the story for me and, as a consequence, the entire film. The former king of Rohan, Bernard Hill does well with the one-note character that is Peter Esser, infusing some genuine warmth into the man, and Eva Green impressed me with her dual roles as both the damaged Emilia and Milo’s grown up childhood friend Sally, hiding her natural beauty behind either excessive eyeliner or a shocking red wig. And no, the two aren’t twins. [Yarrrgh! – Cap’n] Sorry Cap’n.

Not a good look, Eva.

As far as I’m concerned, the best performance in the movie was Ryan Phillippe as Preest, although the character is clearly inspired by Rorschach in both look and deed. Frankly, I’m surprised Alan Moore didn’t sue. Like most of you probably did, I dismissed this guy as just another pretty-boy back in the Cruel Intentions days, but he has been impressing me more and more as the years go on, starting with the Billy Bob Thornton-starring weed comedy Homegrown. By the way, if you haven’t seen that (which is likely) do your best to get a hold of it. You can thank me later. It is in the Meanwhile City sections where this flick really comes alive, and Phillippe’s noirish narration is a big part of that. As a couple of you may know, I have dabbled a bit in noir fiction myself and McMorrow really understands that mood, even in such a fantastical setting as Meanwhile City. And fantastical really is the word. This completely made-up place is remarkable. It’s stunningly beautiful. I would quite happily spend hours looking at all the production art for these scenes. It is a gothic fantasy masterpiece that Batman would be proud to live in (and from me, that’s quite a compliment). If McMorrow had cut out most of the London-set stuff and just made a Meanwhile story, I for one would have lapped that shit up.

See what I mean?

I have to say though, the way the two worlds start bleeding into each other as the film progresses is very artfully done. It’s only in the last twenty minutes or so that everything started tying together, and the clues that had been dropped throughout all fell into place. The ending felt a bit pat though, a bit trite.

I had been aware of this movie since its brief cinematic run three years ago, and it is one of those flicks that pop up in the back of my mind from time to time as something I’d like to see. Ultimately I was disappointed, but I think McMorrow is capable of big things. I might have to wait a while to find out though, as he hasn’t had any further credits as writer or director since this film.

Go ahead, punk. Make my day.

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