Mark Harris
February 22, 2002 AT 05:00 AM EST

Frances

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
runtime
140 minutes
performer
Jessica Lange, Sam Shepard, Kim Stanley
director
Graeme Clifford
distributor
Universal
author
Eric Bergren, Christopher De Vore, Nicholas Kazan
genre
Drama

We gave it a B-

Twenty years ago, every director in Hollywood suddenly had the same idea — to make a movie about the long-forgotten Frances Farmer, a ’30s starlet who was done in by (a) her own integrity, idealism, and distaste for a starmaking machine that chewed her up and spat her into an asylum for a butcherish lobotomy; (b) booze and serious mental illness; or (c) some combination of the above. There may be a good story here, but Frances, which has a ravening appetite for cliché and an aversion to tough questions about its subject, can’t find it. The only two reasons to dust the film off are Oscar nominees Jessica Lange, whose performance builds fiercely as Farmer starts to disintegrate, and Kim Stanley, matching her shout for shout as her monstrous mama. Their suffocating scenes together have some of the gothic thrill of Carrie, but Frances never makes the case for Farmer’s talent or distinctiveness. Anchor Bay’s fine remounting includes a new making-of featurette and an amiably modest commentary by director Graeme Clifford, who alerts you to watch out for Anjelica Huston in a madhouse scene and Kevin Costner in the one-line role that got him a SAG card. B-

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