Sunday, February 19, 2006

Dear Frankie or Nice Guys Don't Always Finish Last by Diane Perkins

Okay. everyone, I’ve been doing my research. Since becoming a card-carrying Tart um... Gerard Butler fan -- purely for research, you understand (right, Robin?)-- I’ve watched Phantom of the Opera a dozen times, but I’ve also widened my horizons to include many many screenings of Dear Frankie, a totally different role for GB. I was very gratified to discover that he portrays another appealing hero, a hero who also seems important to study in order to craft that New York Times best-selling romance. Let’s face it, Ladies, who can resist The Stranger?

For you pre-GB obsessed folk who may not have seen this movie (currently playing on the Starz Cable channel), it is about a woman who for years has written letters to her son Frankie, pretending the letters are from his father, a fictitious sailor. When his ship docks at their town, she hires the Stranger to pretend to be Frankie's father for a day. Gerard Butler gives a truly wonderful, understated, perfect performance as the Stranger. In this role he looks like an ordinary man, talks like an ordinary man. Why do we fall in love with him? Because:

1. The Stranger is so good to the boy. The surest way to any woman’s heart is to love her children. You know from the first meeting that he has the boy’s best interests at heart and he never fails throughout the movie to keep the boy’s best interests at the forefront.

2. The Stranger places himself out of his comfort zone. You can tell he is uncomfortable throughout most of the day with Frankie--and through most of the second day with Lizzie. How can you not love a hero who does something for someone else, even when it makes him uncomfortable?

3. The Stranger is complicated. You don’t ever truly know his motivation, but there is a sense that there is a whole lot more going on with this guy than even he knows about. He seemed sad to me. Lonely. A lot like Frankie, actually. (and Gerry Butler’s real life history has strong parallels with Frankie’s) It is easy to imagine the Stranger needing Frankie and Lizzie as much as they need him. There are lots of feelings swimming around in this guy, shown with exquisite subtlety by GB. You can see the Stranger's feelings in his face, in his eyes, but he does not talk a lot.

4. The Stranger, in fact, is a man of few words. He is not even articulate when he does speak, as if he can’t quite put into words what he means. I loved this about him. I believe men (especially heroes) use words sparingly. I love it when a man has to wrench words out of himself in any meaningful conversation. The words are more powerful this way.

5. The Stranger is restrained. All the time. I love this! He only loosens for very brief, and therefore more poignant, moments. The kiss in Dear Frankie must be one of the most restrained kisses in cinematic history, but there is a tiny moment when you can see how hungry he is for it, and it is that tiny moment that gives the kiss its meaning.

6. The Stranger wears that black leather coat. Sigh. And does he ever look good in it!!! Seriously, though. This role could have been played with a sexy edge to it, or even a friendly, good-to-everybody edge and it would have lost its effectiveness. The subtlety and complexity made it a much more moving performance--and make the Stranger more compelling.

I don’t have any grand conclusions to these ramblings. Except that this entirely different character from The Phantom winds up lingering in the imagination just as long, the flip side of a dark and dangerous hero, the sort of solid man who would never fail you and yet needs you at the same time. Way to go, GB, for giving us these two characters!

Like any good researcher, I must seek more data! So I’ve ordered The Jury and Timeline and Reign of Fire and Dracula 2000 (so far)! Stay tuned...

Diane aka Romance Author Tart


Karen Rose said...

I have to get out more. I haven't seen any of these films, but make a solemn promise to do so when my book is finished.

I saw Timeline and I'm trying to remember which guy was Andre Marek, aka GB. (I'm trying here, even though I'm more a Harrison Ford or Mel kind of woman to be honest.) Was Marek (GB) the one who finds the crypt-coffin-cover-thing with his name on it? (Not wanting to spoil anything.) Good flick. I enjoyed Timeline even though my hubby and his brother thought it was lame. I'm a sucker for heroes and kick-butt damsels and happy endings.

Annie Solomon said...

I thought Timeline was lame, too, Karen, but I liked it! What does that say about me? And yes, GB is the guy who stays behind. As for DF, I think you hit the nail on the head, Diane, as to why The Stranger is so appealing. One of the best things about him is his kindness. Which is a bit of a surprise, given the physically imposing, almost thuggish look of the character in the movie. You don't expect him to be thoughtful, you expect him to be nasty. Which is what the mother expects from all men. She's as surprised as we, though we make the adjustment from suspicion to admiration much quicker! I also agree that GB does a great job holding back, which gives his character an air of mystery that's very compelling.

Lisa Pulliam said...

I'm enthralled by GB. I first saw him when Dracula 2000 came out in the theatres. He was great on a big screen. Then I looked up his other stuff, he was great in USA network's Attila (you have to check that one out). I loved Timeline, but that's because two of my fave actors were in it (GB and Ethan Embry). I didn't like Phantom of the Opera outside of GB, but I don't like musicals. I'm trying to track down The Game of Their Lives, but I don't think that's being released in the U.S.

It's incredible how much of a following he's gathered. When I first saw him in Dracula 2000, I looked online and there were a handful of fans and the beginnings of a Web site. Now they hold conventions all over the world to celebrate his glory. Incredible.

MaryF said...

Timeline WAS lame. Run from bad guys, hide, run from bad guys, hide. Sheesh. That doesn't stop me from watching it ;)

I loved Creedy in Reign of Fire. And he was good as Attila. That was my first GB movie and I remember thinking he had such gorgeous eyes.

I saw DF three times in the theater and bought it the moment it was released. Love the movie, always wondered why he did it, though. The black moment was quite black, wasn't it?

I really liked The Jury, too. Not Dracula 2000 though I liked the twist of his origin.

The Game of their Lives may be released on DVD if enough people express interest. I did on There's also Beowulf, too. And then The 300.

Candy Halliday said...


All of the points you made about GB in the "Dear Frankie" role expressed my feelings beautifully.

I was so amazed at the acting. You could see every emotion on his face and feel the conflict he was going through, trying not to get attached to the boy, yet realizing how much the boy needed more than just one day with his make believe dad.

Ahhh, how can you not love a guy like that?


Jana J. Hanson said...

My m-i-l loves "Dear Frankie," talks about it anytime GB is mentioned in a conversation. Too funny!

Anonymous said...

Diane, you totally captured it. You completely analyzed the magic that is GB in Dear Frankie. Isn't it strange that the entire world is not talking about him as this hero forever. Should I meet someone like him in my near future, I fear for him or me, as we would just have to be married IMMEDIATELY!