Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Movie Review: The Frame by Jamin Winans

Last night, I was given the opportunity to view and review the new indie sci-fi film, The Frame, by Jamin Winans (writer and director of Ink).

Before I jump into the review, let me say that, first and foremost, I'm not a professional film reviewer. That only matters because it means that I have the privilege of picking and choosing which movies I actually bother to review. For the record, this rule applies to books that I review, as well. And my rule is that if I don't like a movie, I won't review it.

So, with that said, let's move forward.

I went into The Frame without a clue as to what I could expect. The trailer (which is more of a teaser) left a lot open to speculation. I feel that the best way I could review this would be to sit down and watch it at least one more time. I could come up with a better description of what I saw, analyze the finer points of the writing, filmography, and overall artistic style. But as I said, I'm not a professional reviewer. What's important is that I walked away WANTING to see it again. Certain movies are worth seeing once, and then I'll never see them again for one reason or another. This one begs at least one more viewing.

This review may go off the rails for a moment, but that's okay. You'll see my point, soon. Even though the story, style, general feel of The Frame is completely different, it reminded me a LOT of Akira. It took twists and turns that I didn't expect, surprised me from the very beginning, and kept me wanting more, even after the credits started to roll. Aside from style, there's one major key difference between Akira and The Frame, in my mind: I needed, and I mean NEEDED, to see Akira twice before I could decide that I liked it. I genuinely liked The Frame right away.

The acting was great, the scripting (dialogue and character depth) elegantly done, and the production quality reminded me of many of the better films that have come out of Focus Features over the years.

Now the big question: would I recommend it to other people? That depends. Unlike The Avengers, The Hobbit, or any other major blockbuster (which is the type of entertainment candy that I go in for time and time again), The Frame is subtle. At times it felt tough to pin down. Sometimes, I expected it to turn into an action-thriller, then at others, it reminded me of a serious take on John Scalzi's RED SHIRTS.

If I had one complaint (and it would be minor if I did), the sci-fi elements took a lot longer to appear than I expected from a movie billed as a sci-fi thriller. A few of the more sci-fi-ish elements didn't show up until the final act, and while it all tied together in the end, I personally would've like a bit more science fiction from The Frame earlier on.

Let me stress that this did not in any way diminish the overall experience that Jamin produced. But it does make it harder to recommend. If you're into the artsier side of sci-fi (i.e. Philip K. Dick), then I think you'll love this movie. If you want Star Trek or Alien, you may be disappointed.

In all honesty, though, one of the reasons I'm struggling with this review, and why I want to see it again, is because it left me emotionally weighed down. Not in a bad way, and not with negative feelings. But it touched SO MANY emotional cords that I NEEDED to block it out RIGHT AWAY or I wouldn't have slept last night. It felt good, like getting a deep-tissue massage. But it's not for everyone.

So, again, would I recommend this to anyone? Yes. Go see it. Watch it anywhere you can. If you enjoy it, awesome: tell your friends! If not, I could understand that. It's great, but (and here's another analogy for you) it's a lot like fine wine (I know, it's not a beer analogy from the beer guy, but more people understand wine, I guess): the people who KNOW wine love love LOVE the vintage that earned a high price tag. The rest of us (if we enjoy wine at all) know how to appreciate what's in the bottle, but we may not get it. The Frame is a lot like that (even though that's a broken analogy). If you like it, you'll very much understand and appreciate it. If you don't, chances are you'll "get it," but it won't be "your thing."

Finally, I want to thank the producer, Kiowa Winans, for inviting me to the private screening. It was an honor, and I hope this review did the movie justice. It's obvious that a lot of work went into it, and I hope for nothing but the best for everyone involved.

UPDATE: For more, listen to our interview with Jamin and Kiowa Winans here.

Giles slept in way too late this morning because the movie drained him so much. Again, in a good way. This turned out to be an experience he needed, even if he didn't expect it.

He hopes to start discussing movies more in the future, but at the very least, several book reviews will be coming out in the near future. Follow him and Beyond the Trope on Twitter for more.

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