With any luck at all, the experience of watching 3, 2, 1… Frankie Go Boom will be the closest I ever get to being the only sane person trapped within a mental institution. It has been quite some time since I’ve had to endure a movie so frustrating, so unpleasant, so determined to make the vast majority of its characters alien and unlikeable. Such movies are deep mysteries, begging the question of why they were made at all; because they’re completely lacking in ways to connect to any potential audience, save for the few that are tragically unlucky in life, they’re fundamentally exercises in self indulgence. On the basis of Frankie Go Boom, the filmmakers fulfilled their need to produce a heavily manufactured sitcom that has plenty of situation but almost nothing in the way of comedy.
The story exists in an infuriating cinematic universe where no one listens to each other, embarrassment is forced on those that are halfway normal, and people are for the most part freakish, desperate caricatures exaggerated to the point of total implausibility. It tells the story of Frankie (Charlie Hunnam), who since childhood has been tortured by his older brother, Bruce (Chris O’Dowd), an idiot who fancies himself a budding filmmaker but is really just a compulsive voyeur, capturing people on film without their consent and posting it on websites for the world to see. Several years ago, he filmed Frankie at his disastrous wedding, in which he reacted badly upon learning his finacée had been cheating on him; the humiliation that resulted in Bruce posting the video on YouTube prompted Frankie to move away from his home in Los Angeles and shack up in a tiny trailer somewhere within a vast Death Valley desert.
Although I understand and even agree with Frankie’s decision to isolate himself, I have to question the logistics of living quite literally in the middle of nowhere. Are we to assume he’s powering his trailer with a generator that’s neither seen nor heard? Okay, we’ll give him that one. But how about the fact that he lives all alone in the desert writing a novel on a laptop with no apparent means of financial support? Does he have a job? Or is he being supported by his parents? How would they know where to send the money, seeing as the intention was to cut himself off from his family? Perhaps they track him down via his cell phone, which he uses frequently. His overbearing and clearly delusional mother (Nora Dunn) calls to inform him that Bruce has finished a stint in rehab for drug and alcohol abuse and to extend an invitation to his “graduation.” Frankie reluctantly agrees. He returns home and stays in his parents’ house.
Bruce is surely one of the most successful cases in the history of rehab, given the fact that at no point in the film is he tempted into relapsing, not even when a character snorts cocaine right in front of him. Be that as it may, it seems that getting sober hasn’t made him any smarter, nor has it softened his uncontrollable desire to capture his brother on film. And so it comes to pass that Frankie rescues a drunk woman named Lassie (Lizzy Caplan), who’s has just been cheated on by her closeted boyfriend and is desperate for a man to have sex with her; Frankie takes her back to his parents’ converted garage, Lassie’s instantaneous sexual advances are hindered by Frankie’s first ever bout of erectile dysfunction, and after several hours, he’s finally able to perform and they have sex. The next morning, after she leaves, Bruce reveals rather nonchalantly that he filmed them together and sent the footage to a sleazy actor named Jack (Chris Noth), who was Bruce’s rehab buddy.
So begins a frantic journey through the city to retrieve the DVD before it’s uploaded onto the internet. Frankie simply wants to save himself from being embarrassed yet again. Bruce is trying to save his own life, as he very quickly learns that Jack is in fact Lassie’s father and is so overprotective that he will go after people with loaded shotguns. On this journey, the brothers will rescue a pig from drowning and discover a voyeur porn site being run out of a welding garage, Bruce will meet a pair of born-again Christians who have started their own production company and want no sex in their films, and Frankie will meet a transgendered woman, who happens to be an ex-con and a computer expert. She’s played by Ron Perlman as a pot-smoking, advice-dispensing hormone case with a pseudo-New York Jewish accent. There are some things you can’t unsee, and the grotesque sight of Perlman in drag in one of them.
Meanwhile, Frankie and Lassie will engage in a romance so emotionally and dramatically sincere, it’s almost as if the filmmakers expected us to take it seriously. Perhaps we could have, had anyone even tried to develop the story beyond the boundaries of juvenile verbal and physical gags. They project sweetness and charm when paired up, which is all wrong for this kind of film. It’s almost as if the filmmakers forgot their movie was a vulgar comedy of errors; they got distracted and tried to make a Hollywood romcom instead. The last thing 3, 2, 1… Frankie Go Boom needed was a fairytale romance, especially since there was no way for us to care about the characters involved in it. Much like Frankie himself, this movie should go into self-imposed exile and stay out of public view forever.
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