The Washington Post

‘Frankie & Alice’ movie review

Psychiatrist Joseph Oswald (Stellan Skarsgard) works with Frankie (Halle Berry), who’s struggling with multiple personalities, in “Frankie & Alice.” (Sergei Bachlakov)

Frankie & Alice” made a somewhat bigger splash than most films when it came out — for one week and in one Los Angeles theater — at the tail end of 2010, garnering producer and star Halle Berry a Golden Globe nomination for her portrayal of a stripper with multiple personality disorder. She didn’t win, and the film slunk quietly out of the public eye.

Until now.

Released nationally for the first time by Lionsgate and Codeblack Films, the movie includes scenes in which Berry juggles two alter egos on top of her earthy character of Frankie: “Genius,” a 7-year-old girl with an IQ of 156, and “Alice,” a virulently racist white woman. While all this channel-switching and inevitable unearthing of psychic demons generates a great awards-season clip, it doesn’t necessarily lead to a satisfying drama.

Berry’s performance, although less campy and histrionic than the trailer makes it look, is still outsize in proportion to the material, which feels slight and insubstantial despite its basis in a true story. That’s probably the result of a script penned by six writers and three story creators, whose committee approach to dialogue produces this excruciatingly unsubtle speech by the psychiatrist (Stellan Skarsgard) who’s treating Frankie:

“I think all of us have to face something we’ve done: mistakes we’ve made, things we’ve allowed to happen, things that would have happened anyway. But I don’t think it’s the blame that’s important. I think it’s the facing of it. If we don’t, there’s no chance ever for us to become whole.”

Though Skarsgard throws all his art-house muscle behind these lines, they still sound as unconvincing as the climax of a made-for-TV melodrama.

★ ★ R. At area theaters. Contains crude language, drug use, brief violence and sensuality.
101 minutes.

Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Michael O’Sullivan has worked since 1993 at The Washington Post, where he covers art, film and other forms of popular — and unpopular — culture.

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