Franny Review – High Drama, Unexpected Twists, As Dependency Wages War to Destroy a Life

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Franny, from Magnolia Entertainment, presents a heartfelt drama of love, loss, dependency, hope, healing and coping as the earth shattering moments that instantly mute, challenge the soul, permanently destroy or short circuit a life randomly strike with warning.

Directed Andrew Renzi, Franny stars Richard Gere, Dakota Fanning, Cheryl Hines, Theo James, Clarke Peters and Dylan Baker.

We meet Franny, played with authenticity by Richard Gere, as the film opens in brighter days, the day a children's cancer hospital was born, a board formed, and even in the darkest of times healing, love and hope are a three strand cord. A trio of lifelong friends making dreams happen.

Franny, and Bobby, played by Dylan Baker, friends from college, and Mia played by Cheryl Hines, are heading for Philadelphia. With stunning suddenness, the gnashing of tearing metal, the unmistakable gut knotting, panicking sound, known to all and wrenching even at a distance fills the screen and the story reopens with Franny on life support.

Olivia/Poodles, played by Dakota Fanning, walks into the room and out. Her life shattered in the same moment with only one hospital bed to visit she is left in the same instant an orphan.

Franny wakes and we begin to see what tragedy has done. Lonely, deeply addicted to pain killers, as one of the very wealthy he lives in a luxury hotel, even with a very nice townhouse, his old money is evident. His eccentricities have become well known and tolerated as he owns the Philadelphia Children's Cancer Hospital.

We met the wounded Franny, walking permanent with a limp, addicted to liquid morphine, unshaven, some weight gain, honestly a walking zombie, and a shell of the man we met in the opening sequences. His charm is replaced with a need to be noticed; be somebody again, be the man he was before tragedy, senseless, robbing tragedy.

Throughout the film, Franny is tortured by nightmares of the crash, the scenes are woven, and each sequence with greater clarity until the end when we see the bodies of his two friends, Bobby and Mia, covered in blood, sinking in a muddy river bed, with Franny the only survivor. All the money in the world, can't bring back these two and cannot stop the torment of the moment.

Although not written in the dialogue, either murmured in some drug fueled rage or confessional, the belief is that as Franny was smoking weed, and passing the joint to his two friends in the front seat, he was somehow responsible for their deaths. Or the location, he was in the back seat and/or if it had only been a fraction of a second, or if only, the two words which torment him.

Needless the say, the five year prolonged healing process is not usual. As owner of the hospital, Franny, believes he can dictate his care. Being active in one's medical decisions and dictating to the doctor the when, where, what how much, of meds doesn't usually fly and it doesn't here either. We see here, an addict, the tug of common sense overpowered by the dependency.

Oliva, before the death of her parents was leaving for college. As the film picks up she has graduated and found a nice guy, a physician like her dad, an unemployed just of med school physician. So she calls Franny who owns a hospital. Smart.

The naiveté, of Luke, played by Theo James, and Olivia is actually annoying as he, becomes angry as Franny bestows gifts upon them, as a young married couple, pregnant with medical student loans that would, objectively, make the transition from unemployed physician to working doctor easier.

Oliva/Poodles had to know what would happen when Franny returned to her life and granted possibly she didn't want to tell her new husband that as the owner of the hospital a job meant a job not an interview. The promotions, the gifting's, she had to know.

Franny pays off Luke's student loans and he goes ballistic. Suddenly Franny is a bastard. To me and I'm sure any person, former student, parent, anyone in student loan debt would look at the reaction and call him an ingrate. His attitude of self-sufficiency is uninspiring especially when someone with great means wants to ease the financial burden.

Others see a wounded soul trying to worm his way back into the life of a family that was shattered by tragedy, which ripped the unit apart, the two survivors went their own way to heal.

Understanding the loss, and Olivia/Poodles, is the only remaining tie to his brighter days, his BT, he clings to her, when she opens the communication lines, he does grab hold, as a drowning man, holds to a life raft.

Even as his addiction leads him, the fact that she is the only "daughter" now an orphan to his "adopted" family makes the gifts seem less bizarre.

I didn't look at the financial giftings as over the top. It wasn't as if he were raining money down on someone he barely knew. He was acting like a parent who could. Paying the student loans, buying a home and car, weren't enticements, they were gifts to make life easier after almost ten years of college, medical school, residency and a pregnant wife. I suppose he should have asked which house they wanted, or what car they preferred.

The gestures were interpreted in the film as an addict's attempt to gain enablers. And that is also played out.

Although Gere digs deep and it pays off, I don't expect Franny to be box office gold, audiences like Gere neat, clean, strong and charming, not struggling, addicted, disheveled, lost and disruptive and driven by the madness of addictions.

Dylan Baker and Cheryl Hines both give memorable performances in the short screen time. The death sequences are poignant. Dakota Fanning carries her own against Gere, not an easy task, and she does well. Theo James may have played particulars of his role questionably and his performance stands out and creates an impression.

Franny held it's World Premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival and is an official selection at the Champs-Élysées Film Festival (France) and Nantucket Film Festival (USA) both in June 2015.

Franny has recently been purchased for distribution by Samuel Goldwyn Films. 

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