By Jeff Walsh
"Fixing Frank" is an engrossing movie that tackles the subject of conversion therapy. When the movie starts, Frank is in a session with Dr. Apsey, saying things that clearly show him to be a self-hating homosexual. We quickly learn that Frank doesn't really hate himself, but is working with his therapist boyfriend Jonathan on an article to discredit Apsey's practice of helping homosexuals become happy heterosexuals.
The movie is a claustrophobic puzzle that gives each character a positive portrayal. It would have been so easy to make Apsey into a villain, make him a former homosexual himself, or stack the deck against him in many other ways, but Ken Hanes (adapting his stage play to the screen) never takes the easy path. Apsey is compelling and caring, and seems well intentioned.
Frank (Andrew Elvis Miller) is the center of the movie, caught in the tug-of-war between Apsey (Dan Butler, profiled in Oasis in November 1998) and his boyfriend (Paul Provenza). The beginning part of the movie does seem more like a play being filmed, with its heightened language and expository monologues, but it eventually finds its rhythm and becomes an engaging movie.
I won't detail the numerous twists and turns of the story, because that's really the fun of watching it, but it definitely raises a lot of questions. It is a movie concerned about story and characters more than making a political stand (which I prefer). It is a great movie to watch with someone with whom you'd like to discuss the topic afterward. The movie takes your thoughts on conversion therapy and makes you question them, without guiding you down a specific path or agenda.
There is an overwhelming sense of foreboding throughout the movie, with its ongoing deceptions, power struggles, and identity issues. There seems to be no way it can resolve well.
All three lead actors turn in great performances that do great justice to the script. It is especially fun knowing that the gay conversion therapist is being played with such conviction and nuance by Butler, an openly gay actor.
Prior to putting this movie into my DVD player, I had never heard of it. I never even read the box or knew I was about to see a film about conversion therapy. But what a great little gem of a film awaited me. The DVD features extras including a commentary track with the director and Butler that details the filmmaking process (one surprise was that a close-up of mailboxes showing a neighbor named Vito Russo is actually a real neighbor of the director, and not what seemed an obvious homage to the author of The Celluloid Closet).
"Fixing Frank" addresses the classic gay question: if there were a pill to make you straight, would you take it? So... would you?