Frances | EW.com

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FrancesTwenty years ago, every director in Hollywood suddenly had the same idea -- to make a movie about the long-forgotten Frances Farmer, a '30s starlet who...FrancesDramaPT140MRTwenty years ago, every director in Hollywood suddenly had the same idea -- to make a movie about the long-forgotten Frances Farmer, a '30s starlet who...2002-02-19Sam ShepardKim StanleySam Shepard, Kim StanleyUniversal
Jessica Lange, Frances

(Frances: Kobal Collection)

B-

Frances

Genre: Drama; Starring: Jessica Lange, Sam Shepard, Kim Stanley; Director: Graeme Clifford; Author: Eric Bergren, Christopher De Vore, Nicholas Kazan; Runtime (in minutes): 140; MPAA Rating: R; Distributor: Universal

Twenty years ago, every director in Hollywood suddenly had the same idea – to make a movie about the long-forgotten Frances Farmer, a ’30s starlet who was done in by (a) her own integrity, idealism, and distaste for a starmaking machine that chewed her up and spat her into an asylum for a butcherish lobotomy; (b) booze and serious mental illness; or (c) some combination of the above. There may be a good story here, but Frances, which has a ravening appetite for cliché and an aversion to tough questions about its subject, can’t find it. The only two reasons to dust the film off are Oscar nominees Jessica Lange, whose performance builds fiercely as Farmer starts to disintegrate, and Kim Stanley, matching her shout for shout as her monstrous mama. Their suffocating scenes together have some of the gothic thrill of ”Carrie,” but ”Frances” never makes the case for Farmer’s talent or distinctiveness. Anchor Bay’s fine remounting includes a new making-of featurette and an amiably modest commentary by director Graeme Clifford, who alerts you to watch out for Anjelica Huston in a madhouse scene and Kevin Costner in the one-line role that got him a SAG card.