EIFF 2015 – Franny
Andrew Renzi’s Franny casts Richard Gere as an eccentric man with infinite money who hides an inner darkness and dependence on prescription drugs behind his quips and smiles.
The opening moments of the film establish Franny as we will see him throughout the narrative. He is the adored family friend of a married couple played by Dylan Baker and Cheryl Hines who have a daughter named Olivia (Dakota Fanning) that he adores. This idyllic situation is interrupted when Olivia’s parents are killed in a car accident.
From here the film moves forward a few years to Franny sporting a distinct Santa Claus hairstyle complete with the massive beard to truly show the image of a broken man who has lost what is important to him. I have to say given this scene I was expecting something a lot more melancholy but as soon as he speaks with a warm sarcastic tone that expectation is completely subverted.
The entire film is sort of like that. Richard Gere’s Franny is an incredibly broken man but he refuses to admit this to himself and by extension the audience so what we see is someone doing everything he can to suppress the pain and guilt that he lives with every day.
At least that’s a possibility that might not be the case. Franny is very much an enigma who keeps what he really thinks and feels hidden completely beneath the surface. It’s impossible to tell if he’s lonely, guilt ridden or if he’s simply full of eccentricities at all times.
I like that the film leaves it ambiguous as to what’s really going on inside his head. One thing that is certain is that he really cares about Olivia -nicknamed Poodles- and wants to use his considerable wealth to ensure that she and her husband Luke (Theo James) have nothing to worry about in life. He finds Luke a job, pays off his student debts to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars and buys them the house that Olivia grew up in. This becomes a serious bone of contention for Luke who doesn’t like to be shown such extravagance as it makes him uncomfortable. I can see where he’s coming from, I’m not sure how I’d react if some random old man bought me a house and ask for something in return.
The film continually plays with audience expectations especially once it’s revealed that Franny is still taking heavy duty painkillers years after his wounds have healed. I was certainly expecting blackmail of some kind to come into it and there’s a scene that makes fun of that notion. At any point where you might expect the film to take a darker turn it goes the other way and surprises. It really comes across that life is all a big joke that only Franny is in on and it really works. The disjointed nature of the plot almost makes it feel as if Franny is in control of how the audience perceives it and it definitely kept me on my toes.
Richard Gere gives his all to this performance and remains charismatic all the way through. He’s such an electric presence that is always incredibly watchable and he has some great moments of comedy. The rare moments where Franny acts more serious are also completely nailed by Gere as he projects an impressive level of tensity that appears almost instantly when needed. You’ll spend most of the time watching this film trying to figure out what Franny is actually thinking and whether his intentions are sincere or not. It’s a question that the film never really answers either so the audience is left to go along for the ride and make up their own mind by the end.
With so much focus on Franny the supporting characters feel a little thin. Luke and Olivia are very thinly developed with little opportunity for the actors to bring any personality to their characters. Dakota Fanning comes pretty close but there’s just not an awful lot to work with unfortunately. I don’t really remember much about either of them other than being the focus of Franny’s eccentric obsession.
I would definitely recommend this one as it never fails to entertain. The audience will have fun trying to figure Franny out and Richard Gere’s eccentric performance should remain memorable.
An entertaining film with an excellent performance from Richard Gere in the title role. Gere is wonderfully eccentric throughout and his character is impossible to come to any definitive conclusion about.
There are several moments where the film looks like it’s about to go in one direction and then completely subverts the expectation. The muddled narrative keeps the plot seeming as eccentric as Franny himself, as though he were in charge of the way the audience perceives the story.
Unfortunately the development of the supporting characters is where this film starts to fall flat. Luke (Theo James) and Olivia (Dakota Fanning) simply aren’t given enough to do to feel like real characters.
This one is definitely worth a look for Richard Gere’s performance alone. It’s incredibly entertaining throughout and Franny is a character that will stick in your mind.