Uncle Frank: Pathetic Oscar Bait

Skyler Johnson ’22 / Emertainment Monthly Comics Section Editor

Never have I ever seen a film so thirsty for an Oscar. You have everything a judge could want: a mid-20th century setting to remind the old bag judges of the good old days, a person of color for “diversity,” and the tackling of modern day issues in painfully inoffensive ways. Uncle Frank is Green Book. They try so hard for the Oscar, but end up being mediocre and problematic.

Uncle Frank starts off by explaining the world’s most boring protagonist: Beth Bledsoe (Sophia Lillis).  A smart bookworm who’s too quirky to fit in with the other girls, she bonds with her Uncle Frank (Paul Bettany). He tells her to do whatever she wants to do, and not what everyone else wants her to do. I’ve never heard a movie character say that. Beth goes to NYU following her uncle’s advice after finding out he’s gay. After finding out the family’s homophobic patriarch has died, Beth and Frank are forced to attend the funeral, where Frank must come to terms with who he is.

Frank started off as an unlikeable character, but only got worse over time. He would be mean towards Beth, mean towards his partner, and mean towards everyone else around him. Somehow, he’s supposed to be a good guy. After he goes through a “change of character,” he still sucked. And, he’s the most interesting character. Everyone else was a cardboard cutout.  

There weren’t any twists or turns, and nothing happened out of the ordinary. On top of that, you get very little characterization and very little conflict. 

Sophia Lillis and Paul Bettany in Uncle Frank. Image courtesy of Amazon.

Audiences must be tiring of seeing films set in the mid-20th century. Green Book, Chappaquiddick, The Darkest Hour, The Post, Mudbound: anyone remember them? We get it, the 1960s were the time to be alive. The music has never gotten better. The food has never gotten tastier. The human race should’ve ended in 1979. The future is evil, and the iPhone has destroyed America’s children. Move on. 

While Uncle Frank wasn’t the most blatant fetishizer, there were moments. You had your classic mid-20th century intellectuals party in New York City where stuffy rich people talked about the meaning of life. There were open roads and old-timey diners. Uncle Frank didn’t need to be set in the 1970s. Homophobia still exists. People still think you’re going to go to Hell if you’re gay. Make a movie about that. 

Previously, this article compared this movie to Green Book. While there are plenty of similarities, Green Book was racist despite condemning racism. Uncle Frank wasn’t homophobic. However, there was a scene depicting domestic violence. The character was under the influence, but never ended up receiving professional help. He didn’t even apologize for what he did. The abuser and the abused hugged it out, and acted like it never happened. That’s somehow enough.  

All in all, this is a mediocre, problematic film that I don’t recommend. Uncle Frank will be available on Amazon Prime November 25th. Can’t wait for it to win Best Picture. C-

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