Let's Get Frank (2003)

Genres - Culture & Society  |   Sub-Genres - Biography, Gender Issues, Politics & Government  |   Release Date - Jul 14, 2004 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 75 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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The tone of Let's Get Frank is almost as revealing as any of the factual information contained in Bart Everly's documentary on Congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass). For one of the more outspoken members of Congress on the left and (for a time) one of the more controversial members of the House of Representatives on either side of the political spectrum, the atmosphere surrounding the film's subject is cool and breezy, as the Congressman is seen in action, mostly during the Clinton impeachment hearings. What one quickly realizes is that whatever the particulars of his politics -- which were probably a bit to the left of his mostly working class district when he was first elected -- Frank has a plain-spoken quality that wins over skeptics and either disarms or infuriates enemies. The camera follows him in his dealings with friends, foes, and the press (which seems to like him for his accessibility), and one gets the sense of a boxer moving around the ring, conscious of every jab that might come his way and prepared for it all -- something like a boxer in a well-choreographed set of moves that make it look very easy being Barney Frank. The reality is a bit more complicated -- owing to the scandal that did envelop him in 1990, and which he survived and easily recovered from, as a more powerful presence than ever, even as a member of the Congressional minority at the time of the making of this movie, Frank is always a tempting target, for enemies aiming at him personally or for pundits seeking to use him as a punching bag (as recently as September of 2008, Rush Limbaugh and company were seeking -- without success -- to blame the entire collapse of the housing market on Barney Frank). This movie should explain why it has almost never worked, and probably never will. What one finds at the center of the movie is a formidible public figure, an openly gay office-holder who talks like the neighborhood butcher and, thanks to that presentation and a lot of common sense on his part, has a base that extends far to the right of the gay electorate, in his district or the nation; a pugnacious fighter who is as smart and articulate as anyone who has ever served in Congress; and a man who is nobody's punching bag in the press. Everly gets all of that in the space of 75 minutes of screen time, which is sometimes as funny to see as it is hypnotic to absorb, as one sees this marvel of political acumen and representation in the "people's house" -- as the House of Representatives was once known -- in action. And that transcends politics as a subject or focus, and makes the movie worth watching even by those who know nothing about Frank, his history, or his tenure in office.