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Frances

Drama movie directed by Graeme Clifford

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fine monument to a dark chapter in Hollywood history

  • Oct 11, 2005
Rating:
+3
Jessica Lange stars as Frances Farmer in this well-crafted film based on Farmer's novel "Will There Really Be a Morning". Farmer's life recounts one of the darkest chapters in Hollywood history, as her strong political and personal ethics black- balled her career, and she eventually spent time in several mental institutions. Farmer was definitely an actress ahead-of-her-time, refusing to bow to studio conventions and only starring in films she felt were right for her talents. At the apex of her fame, she abandoned Tinseltown for the legitimate Broadway stage. Unable and unwilling to indulge their temperamental star, Hollywood painted her as a madwoman...and Frances took the fall.

Farmer's novel paints a harrowing portrait of her life living in a series of mental institutions. Not for the weak-hearted, the novel describes in succinct detail the day-to-day life in a madhouse. Though controversy does lie in the legitimacy of the book, with claims that it was Farmer's close friend Jean Ratcliffe who in fact wrote the bulk of it. Farmer underwent a lobotomy operation at the conclusion of her final stint in care, before hosting her own syndicated talk show for several years. Though whether Farmer indeed had the lobotomy is another debatable subject.

Jessica Lange offers a very sympathetic performances as Frances, and should have won the Academy Award for it (she won the Oscar for TOOTSIE the same year). Legendary star of stage and screen Kim Stanley plays Frances' crazed and possessive mother Lillian with all the raw human emotion she can muster. The film stays pretty close to the facts, but the love-interest (played by Sam Shepard) is pure Hollywood fiction. The other real star of the film is the haunting musical score by John Barry. Just like the book, the film pulls no punches when it comes to the madhouse scenes.

Still this is a fantastic film and a fine monument to Hollywood's eternal abused soul - Frances Farmer.

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More Frances reviews
review by . September 22, 2013
posted in Movie Hype
This biopic of Frances Farmer traces her life from outspoken teen to Hollywood starlet, followed by long periods of mental illness and barbaric treatment in institutions. Jessica Lange is magnificent as Frances; her performance is riveting and heartbreaking. Sam Shepard co-stars as her lover and Kim Stanley is excellent as her mother. It is never clearly established whether Frances was really mentally ill or just a very high-strung and hard-to-handle alcoholic. The conditions she faced in the …
About the reviewer
Byron Kolln ()
Ranked #55
Byron has been actively involved in theatre since the age of 12. He has had a great variety of roles (both on-stage and off). In addition he has hosted the long-running "Show Business" programme … more
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About this movie

Wiki

Jessica Lange gives a career performance in a role she was born to play: the talented and troubled Frances Farmer. Farmer's awful trajectory travels from bright Seattle girl to 1930s Hollywood starlet to degraded (eventually lobotomized) mental patient. Lange, who has the blond, clean look of Farmer's heyday, goes into these places with the fierce abandon of a true believer. Her performance, the lush John Barry score, and the period re-creation are all worth applauding; almost everything else fails. Everyone except Farmer is grotesquely caricatured to fit the movie's thesis, which is that if you are intelligent and nonconformist, the system will resolutely destroy you. (The medical establishment is evil incarnate.) This simple conclusion seems inadequate and disrespectful of Frances Farmer's tragic problems. For a radiant glimpse of what the real Farmer had to offer, see Howard Hawks'sCome and Get It, which bristles with excitement over a new discovery.--Robert Horton
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Details

Director: Graeme Clifford
Genre: Drama
DVD Release Date: February 19, 2002
Runtime: 140 minutes
Studio: Starz / Anchor Bay
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