Frankie and Johnny are Married

Frankie and Johnny are Married is a highly amusing look at Hollywood, even more so because it is based on actual events. Michael Pressman is a veteran television series director, and his wife Lisa Chess (Separate Lives, Ladies in Waiting) is a struggling actress. Chess often finds that her marriage to Pressman gets her an interview, but she later loses the role for some random reason. Both are frustrated with their jobs, and this is taking a toll on their marriage. Pressman believes that Chess deserves a showcase. If he directs her in a play, it gives Chess the chance to shine, and the chance for them to work together. They decide on Frankie and Johnny in the Clare de Lune, a two-person play by Terrence McNally. Then, the real 'fun' begins.

It seems that everything that can go wrong does. The first unbelievable choice Pressman makes is to finance everything himself. Chess is very skeptical, given that they are gambling with their life savings and college funds of their children. Moreover, the chances of success are minimal. To avoid the wrath (and cost) of unions, Pressman puts on the show as "equity-waiver," meaning less money for everybody. Frankie and Johnny is a sometimes verbally explicit story of two people looking for love. Chess is to play Frankie, and she chooses Alan Rosenberg (Reaching Normal, Impulse), an old friend she read the play with in college. This proves to be the fatal mistake. Although Rosenberg has a good reputation, he starts making demands. They start off small, then slowly snowball into the ridiculous. Rosenberg refuses to learn his lines, and is extremely difficult in rehearsal.

Pressman needs to play referee between Rosenberg and Chess, which strains their marriage. The worst part is that it's obvious to everybody that Rosenberg is insane. This does not make Chess happy, and Pressman is understandably all the more frustrated. It later becomes obvious that Pressman needs to fire Rosenberg, but then the next issue is how to find a replacement, or risk losing a lot of money. It is true that Pressman and Chase put on this production, but the actor involved was not Rosenberg. It's fine that he doesn't tell who it really was, the fun part is watching how far Pressman can go before he cracks. Chess is a fine actress, and although she has had limited success in television, hopefully this film will give her more exposure. The problem with her (and it isn't really a problem at all) is that she is older, and Hollywood is notorious for ignoring women over thirty.

The more inside Hollywood knowledge one has, the more enjoyable Frankie and Johnny is. There are a slew of cameos from actors and people behind the scenes, many of which have connections to Frankie and Johnny. Television wunderkind David E. Kelly is a personal friend of Pressman's, and he has a cameo playing some guy named David E. Kelley. His wife is some actress named Michelle Pfeiffer, who played Frankie in Garry Marshall's 1991 adaptation opposite Al Pacino. Kathy Baker, Mandy Patinkin, and a bunch of other make brief appearances as themselves or play small roles. Everybody is basically having a good time poking fun at themselves. For Pressman and Chess, it may be a form of therapy, or may be a testament to how strong their marriage is. Whichever one, as the events in Frankie and Johnny are Married get worse, it gets more fun to watch.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 35 minutes, Rated R for language including sexual references, and brief drug use.

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