Genre: Biography, Drama
Director: Graeme Clifford
Christopher De Vore
Gerald S. O’Loughlin
1982 is such a competitive year for actresses, most prominently is Meryl Streep’s critics-consensus “the all-time best female performance” and Oscar-crowning SOPHIE’S CHOICE (1982), which shamefully I haven’t watched yet. Thus unfairly other contenders didn’t stand any chance to beat her for that, but I never doubt that it was a nip-and-tuck between Streep and Lange in her tour-de-force sensation FRANCES.
Frances Farmer is hardly a household name among film boffins, she was a shooting star in the Tinseltown, whose defiant nature is destined for hemming herself as a fair game to the studio persecution, and the inhuman therapeutic treatments she receives in the mental hospitals are fierce indictment of our society’s callous depersonalization under the aegis of medical remedy, although whether the lobotomy operation was executed still lacks of conviction.
Farmer exhibits her rebelliousness from the very start with her religion-defying speech “god was gone” when she was simply a high-schooler, a fearless doll under the high-handedness of her control freak mother (Stanley), Lange’s rendition is begging description, an almost 30 years age-range and 140-minutes running time thoroughly proffers her an once-in-a-lifetime stretch to embody herself into this anguished persona, she minutely delineates how the life-force has been mercilessly ripped off her inch by inch and a belated and vehement face-off with her mother is the most theatrical moment and is the apotheosis of a heart-wrenching vicariousness, bravo to both Lange and Stanley!
Henry York (Shepard), a fictional character as the only man who truly understands Farmer and loves her unconditionally is the narrator, this concoction is a poetic license to add some solace in Farmer’s wretched life and a considerable move for its audiences’ sake, but meanwhile it barely serves a slush albeit Shepard and Lange work wonder together, the make-believe default also makes no room to expound why those two lovers could not be together, an over-romanticized tone may counteract the despondency of the film but it is also an untimely reminder of how close itself could be as brave as its leading lady Jessica Lange!