A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the jokey title Frankenstein's Monster's Monster, Frankenstein tells you all you need to know about this short (32-minute) parody of an old-fashioned biopic/ horror movie. Inside jokes about acting and references to different acting philosophies and styles are coupled with playful, mocking, and also admiring reproductions of old movie clichés, making this piece suitable for old movie fans and teen viewers versed in such fare. A woman kisses, lies on, and possibly has sex with a monster, and another recalls her long-ago affair with a married man. A reference is made to morphine for a dying patient. A gun goes off. Language includes "f--k" and "s--t."
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What's the story?
Much of FRANKENSTEIN'S MONSTER'S MONSTER, FRANKENSTEIN is a highly theatrical 32-minute parody of old movies as well as of pet projects of kids attempting to understand the lives of their more famous parents. In a play-within-a play, actor and producer David Harbour (Stranger Things) appears as his fictionalized self, his fictional father, and also the Frankenstein monster that the father created in a kitschy televised play recreating the Frankenstein story. Scenery-chewing in the play is deliberately rampant as Harbour, Alfred Molina, Kate Berlant, and Alex Ozerov let loose in an attempt at comic abandon. The acting-centered twist is that Harbour senior had hired a young movie idol he despised (Ozerov) to play his assistant. The assistant must pose as Dr. Frankenstein to help get funding while the real Dr. F. poses as the monster he probably killed. Through interviews with Harbour's fictional father's contemporaries (Michael Lerner and Mary Woronov), research into archives, the findings of a hired forensic accountant, and a review of his dad's extensive work, the son draws the conclusion that his father was, in fact, a monster -- overbearing, jealous, self centered, womanizing, and unfaithful.
Is it any good?
Frankenstein's Monster's Monster, Frankenstein may fly over the heads of all but the most devoted young students of the history of cinema. References are made to styles of acting, as well as melodramas and horror films of the past and the famed Juilliard acting school. Theatrical clichés are explored or mentioned, including playwright Anton Chekhov's advisory that every story detail should propel a play forward, so a gun seen in the first act must go off by the play's end. Harbour mimics the deceased Orson Welles (the Citizen Kane director not named here), a famed figure of international cinema who few under the age of 30 will be familiar with.
Whatever interesting points the movie makes, or comedy the movie attempts, a viewer's interest easily wanders as the fictional young Harbour seems as unlikable and one-note a character as the fictional father he is examining. Nevertheless, hats off to Netflix for providing a venue for a short piece that would likely otherwise be relegated to home movie status.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the deliberate over-acting in this piece. What's the point this short film is trying to make?
Have you watched movies made decades ago? How do you think acting has changed over the years?
Do actors in more recent movies give performances that seem more realistic than the ones made years ago? In what ways?
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