Frankie & Alice: Halle Berry in Cliche-Ridden Melodrama of Multiple Personality Disorder

Do we really need yet another melodrama about a woman who suffers from multiple personality disorder?

Following in the footstep of Nicole Kidman, who is the producer and star of Rabbit Hole, Halle Berry also does double duty on Frankie & Alice, except that, unlike Kidman, she has chosen a formulaic, cliché-ridden tale that’s poorly directed.

Our grade: C- (* out of *****)

Co-written by Mary King, Marko King, and Jonathan Watters, the movie is so amateurishly directed by Geoffrey Sax that it does not even serve well Berry’s skills as an actress.
No doubt Berry must have believed in the material to throw herself into playing it wholeheartedly, but her performance, like the movie, is so disjointed that she fails to register; in many scenes, sporting different wigs and accents, she just seems silly.
By now the subject matter has been treated at least half a dozen times on the small or the big screen, beginning with the 1948 “The Snake Pit,” starring Olivia De Havilland, the 1957 “The Three Faces of Eve,” starring Joanne Woodward, the made-for-TV “Sybil,” with Sally Field as the patient and Joanne Woodward as her kind psychiatrist.
The movie’s first reel, set in the early 1970s, is particularly weak, boasting the look and feel of an exploitation picture of the era.
Frankie Murdoch is a woman struggling with dissociative identity disorder (also known as multiple personality disorder) who has three distinct personalities.
While she lives and works in the exotic and seedy world of a go-go club in 1973 Los Angeles, Frankie seems quite together, a survivor and not a victim by any means, when we first meet her.  But she hasn’t quite realized the dream for herself. She’s smart and manages to be the kingpin of her environment. At the club, she’s learned to make the most money, and she’s the one the other girls want to be around and be like.
But Frankie can’t make the pieces of her life connect and she knows that something is terribly wrong. There are moments she can’t explain and lapses of time she can’t remember.
When Frankie is arrested and finds herself facing possible jail time, her only alternative is to check herself into a mental institution. She decides on the hospital and there she begins an extraordinary journey of discovery with Dr. Oz (Skarsgaard0, the brilliant psychiatrist who is at first reluctant to treat her.
A research scientist with rusty doctor-patient skills, Dr. Oz soon realizes that Frankie presents an extraordinary case. He discovers three distinct personalities: Frankie, the main or host personality; Alice, a white racist from the Deep South; and Genius, an adolescent with an astonishing IQ.
Oz believes his patient presents multiple personality disorder and, even though his medical colleagues are skeptical, Oz persists in working with Frankie. With Oz’s help, Frankie finds the courage to face a repressed, past trauma so devastating and deeply-buried that it has caused aspects of her self to split apart into separate personalities.

Inspired by a true story, “Frankie & Alice”’ offers an all too familiar chronicle, with all the predictable conventions and steps to recovery involved, of one woman’s extraordinary struggle to come to terms with her various identities.

One of the most reliable actors around, Stellan Skarsgard gives a decent (but no more) performance as the doctor who tries to save her.
All the aforementioned mental disorder films have garnered critical acclaim, Oscar nominations and awards, and Emmy kudos for their lead actresses, and I am sure that Berry had this information in mind when she decided to produce and star in the picture.