Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Halle Berry Explores Schizophrenia in "Frankie and Alice"

"Crazy as a shit-house wreck!"

Frankie calls herself this as it gradually dawns on her that her life is lived by three different personalities. She walks away from her psychiatrist Dr. Oz who himself is a conflicted soul.

Frankie (Halle Berry) is a stripper who occasionally visits her doting mother Edna (Phylicia Rashad) to bring her expensive gifts, telling her of a rose-colored life (that she works in a bank, and is planning to pursue her studies). But when particular situations set her off (old songs, wedding news), she turns into either a child with the IQ of a genius or a racist white girl who thinks of herself as Alice. Now if narratives like this were stranger than fiction, it's because it is based on real events.

Halle Berry bravely takes on 3 personas that at some point (the sudden shifts) show interpretative strains, but is nonetheless a thespic high-wire act. Unfortunately, the film is Ms. Berry staring straight into the camera and saying, "Hey, look at me act!" which is a bit off-putting. Stellan Skarsgard (of Von Trier's "Breaking the Waves") matches Berry's insightful depiction as Frankie's seemingly spaced out shrink who's coasting through a difficult marriage.

"Frankie and Alice" is directed by Geoffrey Sax who did the horror flick "White Noise" before.

The events of our past have a way of haunting us back and the subconscious copes in ways we cannot fully fathom. Halle Berry received a Golden Globe nomination for her part. Oscar didn't quite embraced her this time, but who cares? She is already Oscar's first african-american Best Actress ("Monster's Ball", 1992).

Halle Berry: High-wire thespic act.

Stellan Skarsgard is Oz, the psychiatrist.

Phylicia Rashad plays Edna, Frankie's mother. Did she kill a child? Or was it just given away?

As Frankie the stripper, she suddenly reverts into the racist Alice, finding herself passionately embracing a black guy at a motel! She turns violently morbid then runs away in utter confusion.

As Alice, she crashes at a wedding reception.

Halle Berry's parents both used to work at a hospital. Dad was black, an attendant; mom was white, a psychiatric nurse. Berry, at the age of 17, won Miss Teen All-American.

On her dark skin: "Blackness is a state of mind and I identify with the black community. Mainly, because I realized, early on, when I walk into a room, people see a black woman. They don't see a white woman. So out of that reason alone, I identify more with the black community."

Stellan Skarsgard is Swedish whose "Breaking the Waves" is one of my all-time favorites. It was also his breakaway role that made Hollywood notice him.

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