Frankie & Alice -- Film Review

Halle Berry struts her performance stuff as a multiple-personality stripper.

CANNES -- It's not often that Spike TV and the Lifetime Channel might be interested in the same production. Well, if you've got Halle Berry playing a stripper with multiple personalities, the venue possibilities are multitudinal.

Cable rental, and DVD seem certain locks, but theatrically, where is New Line when you need them for the pickup?

With Berry cast in the role of a sex-crazed stripper, "Frankie & Alice" should entice male viewers but aesthetic-minded menfolk will grouse about Berry's cautious stripper costumes -- it's set in the'70s -- and its surprising lack of sizzle. Overall, "Frankie & Alice" is a well-wrought psychological drama that delves into the dark side of one woman's psyche.

Berry is spellbinding as Frankie, a young L.A. exotic dancer. If stripping for a living weren't chaotic enough, Frankie is plagued by gigantic personality swings: She switches from hard-drinking, promiscuous lady of the night to a teetotaling, racist Southern white belle, and, to boot, a genius-level kid. Not surprisingly, this lands her in a lot of trouble, personally and legally.

Crammed into a public psych ward after an "episode," Frankie is left in the care of an emotionally drained psychiatrist (Stellan Skarsgard). The good doctor is a former LSD "researcher" who is still trying to plug into another reality. Down to basic prognosis, however, he's essentially a mope who medicates with tuna sandwiches, jazz and liquor. Frankie gets his professional and personal juices flowing again.

In her terms, Frankie thinks she's crazy, in the doc's lingo, she's a wonderful specimen -- someone who reaches other realities through her own chemical dysfunction. In a sense, they are a perfect doctor-patient match. And, each could cure the other.

Although six scribes credited with the screenplay usually predicts erratic story and mood swings, "Frankie" does not suffer from multiple writer disorder. Both clinically and dramatically, it's an engaging titillation despite a somewhat flat last half-hour.

Throughout, its exhibitionist proclivities are evened-out under director Geoffrey Sax's astute guidance and the intelligent, nuanced performances of Berry and Skarsgard.

In addition, the supporting performances are rock-solid, particularly Phylicia Rashad's steadfast portrayal of Frankie's supportive but enabling mother.

Scoped in a hard-noir style, with mean-streets Canada standing in for Los Angeles, "Frankie & Alice " is a technically well-balanced entertainment.

Venue: Festival de Cannes -- Market
Sales: Cinesavvy
Production companies: Access Motion Pictures
Cast: Halle Berry, Stellan Skarsgard, Matt Frewer, Phylicia Rashad, Chandra Wilson, Melani Papalia, Emily Tennant
Director: Geoffrey Sax
Screenwriters: Cheryl Edwards, Marko King, Mary King, Jonathan Watters, Joe Shrapnel, Anna Waterhouse
Producers: Halle Berry, Vince Cirrincione, Simon DeKark, Hassain Zaidi
Director of photography: Newton Thomas Sigel
Production designers: Linda Del Rosario, Richard Paris. Music: Andrew Lockington
Costume designer: Ruth E. Carter
Editor: David Richardson
No rating, 102 minutes