Wednesday, March 13, 2019

SXSW with Abe: Frances Ferguson

I’m excited to be attending the film festival at South by Southwest for the second time, and I’ll be posting reviews throughout the week as I see as many movies as possible!

Frances Ferguson
Directed by Bob Byington
Narrative Spotlight

Not all crimes happen the same way, and it’s definitely true that the punishment doled out is extraordinarily dependent not only on the circumstances but also on the cultural identity of the perpetrators and victims. In many films, particularly documentaries, that injustice is explored and highlighted for the world to see. In drama, it may be just as compelling, and there are sometimes portraits that find those accused far less concerned than they likely should be, ready to accept the consequences of their actions, resigned and relatively relaxed about following whatever the new course of their life may be.

Frances Ferguson (Kaley Wheless) lives with her mother, her loser husband (Keith Poulson), and infant daughter Parfait in the small town of North Platte, Nebraska. Miserable and bored out of her mind, Frances seizes upon a temptation after she substitutes in a class at the high school, engaging in a relationship with a student. Promptly arrested and sentenced to serve time in jail, Frances faces her time on the inside with a sarcastic attitude, going through the motions both while incarcerated and after release on a prescribed road to recovery that leaves her feeling little other than annoyance at the uninteresting nature of the world.

This is a bizarre film, one that showcases consequences in a way that isn’t really at all in line with reality, as Frances might get lightly pushed around by a guard but otherwise enjoys a perfectly liberating time while she’s locked up. Comparing this film to “Orange is the New Black” is unavoidable, if even more than its plot because Wheless looks nearly identical to Taylor Schilling, and her facial expressions, which are the highlight of this film, are eerily similar. Frances’ approach to her situation is what makes watching her worthwhile, since she just doesn’t care and is going to roll her eyes at anything that happens.

As a film, however, there doesn’t seem to be too much of a point being made. Nick Offerman, always a welcome participant in any film, serves as the narrator, slyly detailing each new revelation and development. He also has a tendency to bid characters goodbye, announcing to the audience that this is the last time we’ll see a particular supporting player. Frances is undeniably more interesting than anyone else in the film, and so much of this weird, unfulfilling journey feels unnecessary, ending both far too soon and far too late after just seventy-five perplexing minutes.


No comments: