Jessica Lange, who received a well-deserved Oscar nomination for this role, delivers a gut-wrenching performance in the title role. Her free-spirited portrayal of healthy Frances is tempered by the film's plot, which puts her through the barbarity that we once called medicine in mental health. Sam Shepard is also quite strong as one of Frances's few supporting friends.
It may be that the film can't fashion a believable narrative out of the facts, but the idea that Frances would go back to her mother after many of the events the film depicts defies all we know about the character, and her meager excuse that "She's still my mother" in the words of Rocky the Flying Squirrel "Just doesn't wash."
Overall, regardless of its plot-related flaws, you should see this film if only for Lange who plumbs emotional depths to produce a tragically wounded character.
This is truly a very discomforting look at how the human spirit can be totally crushed by tragic, though changeable, circumstances.
once a feministic author(possibly simone du bouvir) utters that society holds an enormous grudge against the woman who possesses both talent and beauty in the same time. (worse off, if she also has the edgy "IT") such woman is doomed to be ruptured by patriarchal society. beauty makes her the object of covetous desire for men, but her ego keeps her from being the willing puppet for chauvinistic sex commodity and hostility aroused around. then a misdemeanor leaves you into being diagnosed as schizophrenic, and you're F**KED.
it takes gutsy pride to announce oneself as an atheist in public speech competition at the time frances farmer lived, and she even earns a prize as well as notoriety for it in her adolescence, a teenage girl who dares to shout out "god is not there!"
then avidly ambitious frances shifts her aspiration from writing to acting since it's more immediate cannon for her spunk and wits. with her porcelain skin and statuesque looks, she reaches hollywood stardom which she rebuffs for its lack of depth, and it infuriates the mgm studio when she decides to nullify her movie contract for stage.
her life begins to collapse when her beloved stage director, whom she was having an affair with, doublecross her together with the studio, dismissing her with an informative note about his wife's arrival. this event of heart-break detonates the frances' explosive nature then it leads to the accusation of mental illness. her doom ensues.
firstly, she tries to offend the police officers who rudely abducts her from her private bathroom as well as the press by claiming her occupation is "c***s**ker". her proficiency of verbal defense/offense sinks her into even more severe discrimination. secondly, her rebellion against her overbearing mother who reports her whereabouts to the mad house, isolates her further. thirdly, the injustice of mental institution is sickeningly exploitative, and in one scene, she's ravished by numerous soldiers who buy off the guardian for their filthy privilege. "20 bucks to screw a movie star" is simply too harsh to endure. naked twisted bodies hang around grimly, an macabre image of grotesque. in the end, frances still says "i'm still me! it's one thing you cannot take away from me!!"
apparently this movie is presented in the perspective of frances' mind, the angst of a wailing individual, and everything seems like others' fault and social wreckage over her incorruptible soul. but i cannot help but wonder why other female stars in her time could still glitter and also remain individualistic without suffering so? (garbo, dietrich, crawford, davis, stanwyck..all are female avant-gardists with the sharp edge.) so why can't she be one of them?
primarily, farmer's family background is the bourgeois who settle in cozy suburbia, well-sheltered without the hard-boiled survival instincts. contradictorily, she ain't ordinary enough to mold herself in such environment. meanwhile her distinguished beauty makes people indulge her brittleness too easily. (beautiful women always tend to be spoilt. think about your other female classmates in high school.) she cannot take pressure and also too willfully idealistic to reconcile. if she ain't beautiful, she wouldn't be a sudden success. if she ain't beautiful, she wouldn't induce sexual ravages, right?
it might be inappropriate to deem "frances" as avenging outcry of individuality, and it may be more like a dirge of american dream for female individuality. you're taught in childhood, men are born equal, and everyone has his right for public speech. BUT you forget it merely means MEN.
Her story is notable because she was committed to a psychiatric institution by her mother because she didn't adhere to how her mother thought she should live.
She ended up getting invasive therapies such as insulin shock therapy, ECT and a lobotomy. It was fascinating and barbaric look at psychiatry in 1930s and 40s.
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!