‘Uncle Frank’ movie review: An underwhelming road trip

A still from ‘Uncle Frank’  

This is a movie that is likeable and relatable (we all have a favourite uncle) in parts but does not come together as a coherent whole. Alan Ball, who will always be remembered for the savage splendour of his American Beauty screenplay, which won him an Oscar, has written and directed Uncle Frank.

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Set in the 1970s, the movie opens in Creekville South Carolina, with the Bledsoe family celebrating the grandfather, Daddy Mac’s (Stephen Root) birthday. In between reading the naughty bits from The Godfather and helping with the younger children, 14-year-old Beth (Sophia Lillis) wonders why Daddy Mac is cruel to his eldest son, Frank (Paul Bettany).

Uncle Frank
  • Director: Alan Ball
  • Cast: Paul Bettany, Sophia Lillis, Peter Macdissi, Steve Zahn, Stephen Root
  • Story line: Frank and his niece Beth undertake a road-trip to attend a funeral and find out truths about themselves
  • Run time: 95 minutes

Her favourite uncle, Frank teaches literature in New York. He encourages Beth to be who she wants to be and not try and mould herself to other people’s expectations of her. Four years later, Beth comes to New York to study. She finds out Frank is gay and in a relationship with an aeronautics engineer from Saudi Arabia, Wally (Peter Macdissi). When Daddy Mac dies of a sudden heart attack, Beth and Frank undertake a road trip (since her mum does not want her to fly) to Creekville. In the manner of all road trips, Frank comes to terms with a traumatic event from his past and everyone learns universal truths.

Bettany makes for an interesting Frank. Lillis looks like she is itching to dash off with a flashlight to find a clue — blame it on her titular role in Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase and the 70s milieu. Steve Zahn plays Beth’s father and Frank’s brother, Mike. There is beauty and warmth in the movie, but nowhere reaching the aching loveliness of the floating plastic bag of American Beauty 20 years ago.

However, Uncle Frank is too timid for its own good. There are mentions of homophobia and Nixon’s general horridness, but it all seems rather shallow and superficial, and in the final count, underwhelming.

Uncle Frank is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video


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Printable version | Jan 19, 2021 9:45:18 PM |

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