September 15, 2016
Directed by Sheila Canavan and Michael Chandler
88 min | 2015 | USA | Not Rated
*Post-film Q&A with directors Sheila Canavan and Michael Chandler.
The film is a profoundly moving portrait of a man who enjoyed a satisfying public career, but lived a private life in turmoil. The rumpled and overweight young man, whose campaign slogan was “Neatness Isn’t Everything,” became one of America’s greatest legislators, wielding his acerbic wit like a wrecking ball.
The film follows Frank as he arrives in Washington with a passion to serve the needs of the working class and the elderly, but facing a changing Congress, where some of its own members begin a decades-long campaign to denigrate the government they served and to destroy our faith in it. Yet Frank surprises us with his optimism, promising to continue to serve and improve our democracy, which he sees as a moral cause.
Through candid interviews, the film allows a shy and lonely man to painfully emerge from behind the very public figure. Frank explains why he felt he could not reveal his sexuality to anyone—even his family—in a world where he felt love songs did not apply to him.
Utilizing a trove of archival footage, the film chronicles Frank’s early career, including his 1987 coming-out and a scandal that nearly destroyed his political career. Absolved of any serious ethics charges and freed from the constraints of a closeted life, Frank is given the job of defending President Clinton against impeachment as a result of his own sexual scandal.
As did Frank, the film reaches across the aisle through interviews with Republican colleagues. It describes Frank’s significant role in the financial crisis of 2008 and the passage of Dodd/Frank, noting the role of both parties in deregulating the financial industry, but dispelling the myth that the government, and Frank specifically, caused the crash.
Though the use of intimate verité footage of Frank and partner Jim Ready, the film alternates between an often-crotchety public Frank and a softer man, much in love and preparing to marry. The story culminates with the integration of Frank’s private and public lives in exclusive footage of the wedding and of his packing up to leave Congress.
Directed by Sheila Canavan in her directorial debut and Oscar-nominated Michael Chandler.