“Frequency” – Nathan’s Movie Challenge, Week 4
“I’m still here, Chief.”
I love all things time-travel, so it’s a safe bet that most any story that involves it is going to already sit well with me by its very nature. In Frequency, the characters don’t actually travel through time, per se, but they do navigate space-time in a way that makes for an interesting, exciting, and emotional movie.
Dennis Quaid as Frank and his son Johnny, played by Jim Caviezel, discover the HAM radio allows for communication over 30 years of time. While it builds on the stages of acceptance: disbelief, acceptance, and embrace, it allows us to get to know the family and their interconnected lives.
I didn’t quite expect the story to veer off into a “catch the murderer” tale, but it does in retrospect drop foreshadowing hints from the opening sequence on through that the “Nightengale” murders would in fact be the crux of the plot.
I enjoyed the performances and the various ways the characters tried to use their newfound miracle radio to their advantage, only to have past events unexpectedly altered. It’s a testament of the script that many tightly woven elements all work together to ensure the viewer understands what’s happening, and, in fact, can predict certain things to happen.
It’s not a particularly stylish film, and it suffers from some unimaginative framing that fails to match the creativity of the story. Still, the movie’s highly entertaining and ensures a very satisfying, happy Hollywood ending.
My only logical concern (and this is just an armchair philosophical stance): SPOILER After everything that happens, little Johnny is going to be one memory-mangled mess of a person recalling every permutation of what variations of his life did or didn’t happen. How one could take all those conflicting memories and still lead a sane life, with a happy family, is a convenience the plot necessarily affords. END SPOILER
You can’t put too much thought into movies that involve messing with time. As Doc Brown warns us, “a time paradox could cause a chain reaction that would unravel the very fabric of the space-time continuum and destroy the entire universe!” Luckily for the Sullivan family, time is on their side.
Frequency was at the time of this review at #1840 on my Flickchart list of shame (ranked #2601 among the best movies of all time). Here’s how it entered my chart:
Frequency vs. Carnal Knowledge
I quite liked the story and performances by Nicholson, Art Garfunkel, and Ann-Margret in Carnal Knowledge, but it’s a little too long. It might be just a product of the time it was released, but it could have used some judicious editing to really make the movie even better. Frequency will win here.
Frequency vs. Ghost World
There are a few movies that can really immediately be considered cult films immediately upon their release. Ghost World certainly fits the bill, with a wondrously peculiar script, oddball performances from a young Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson, and the always eccentric Steve Buscemi. It’s got all kinds of sass and wit, and takes the matchup over Frequency.
Frequency vs. Igby Goes Down
I don’t recall much about Igby Goes Down other than it starred a Culkin and had a pretty stellar cast (Claire Danes and Jeff Goldblum, among others). It’s a quirky, teen rebellion movie, but ultimately its forgettable nature is going to bring it down as the runner-up in this match.
Frequency vs. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
I do really appreciate the German Expressionist classic, but I’d be lying if I said I’m, on the whole, more impressed with it than I was with Frequency. Yes, for its time, Caligari is quite stellar – but my enjoyment of Frequency is greater.
Frequency vs. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
The first of a two-parter, that I wasn’t particularly keen on, is not going to win against a clever script with solid performances. Frequency wins.
Frequency vs. X2
Of all the X-Men movies, X2 is certainly the best. I’d have to rewatch it to give it a really fair shot, but as of this moment, my takeaway of Frequency is that it’s the stronger film.
Frequency vs. The Lego Movie
It’s hard to vote against The Lego Movie. It does all the things right that could have gone horribly wrong. It’s a great kid’s movie, brilliantly colorful, and directed with an original script. Still, it’s a kid’s movie – and perhaps not as effective overall for me as Frequency. This was a tough pick.
Frequency vs. Limitless
The central conceit of Limtless is incredibly fun. Bradley Cooper’s buddy snags some miracle drugs that unlock your brain’s functioning capacity (not unlike the recent film from Luc Besson, Lucy), but instead of taking an action-heavy approach, Limitless turns into a psychological thriller fraught with tension and suspense. Of the two high-concepts, I’m slightly more of a fan of what Limitless pulled off over Frequency – but this is another pairing that are close both in genre and in execution. It’s a difficult call.
Frequency vs. Argo
I wasn’t expecting to like Argo as much as I did, but Ben Affleck pulled it off. He managed to make a period film political drama into an entertaining, and occasionally quite funny film – despite the high stakes of the scenario. Although it’s excellent, I’m really impressed with how well executed the intricate Frequency script is, so it’ll win this matchup. Frequency is going up some pretty heavy hitters here.
Frequency vs. Melancholia
I’ve been quite impressed with how artful and beautiful Lars Von Trier’s films can be. Melancholia meanders slowly through its plot, but it’s completely purposeful – designed to instill empathy with the severely depressed protagonist played by the perfectly cast misanthropic Kirsten Dunst. The fact that this allegory of despair is framed by the end of the world is just icing on the cake. It’s an emotional masterpiece work of cinema. It’s going to win this final match over Frequency.
Frequency is now ranked quite highly at #347 out of 1360 movies on my Best Movies of All-Time chart.
This next week I’ll be watching Apocalypto, Blood Simple, and There Will Be Blood. In the meantime, view the other films I’ve ranked during the challenge so far.