Francophobia: ‘Maladies’ Is a Sickening Display of Cinematic Ineptitude

Overrated, overexposed and overindulgent, James Franco is all over the place, like cow chips in the abandoned pasture of a

James Franco in Maladies.
James Franco in Maladies.

Overrated, overexposed and overindulgent, James Franco is all over the place, like cow chips in the abandoned pasture of a derelict farm. With nine movies currently in release (all bad), 13 movies completed or in various stages of post-production and a Broadway play about to open—not to mention his art gallery openings, poetry readings, book publications and the other endless projects he’s writing, directing or acting in—he’s a bus-and-truck company Orson Welles. A pretentious bore called Maladies is one you can miss.

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(0/4 stars)

Written by: Carter
Directed by: 
Starring: James Franco, Catherine Keener and Fallon Goodson
Running time: 96 min.

This one has been gathering dust on an editing-lab shelf for two years. Why it’s opening now is anybody’s guess. He plays a schizophrenic former soap opera star who dropped out of show business to write a novel in soft lead pencil in a beach town with a distant view of the Manhattan skyline. He isn’t always sure where his arms are. He doesn’t even know where he is. He can’t stand to be touched. He agonizes over the use of words like “whilst” and “betwixt.” Walking a straight line from the kitchen to the living room carrying a glass of water can send him into near-paralytic collapse. The soothing sound of a dial tone comforts him, although it can drive a viewer to drink.

Everything about this snooze fest is an invitation to booze and drugs—anything to avoid what’s happening on the screen, especially when Mr. Franco smears himself with shaving cream and goes raving mad. It doesn’t matter if nothing seems profound or insightful. Mr. Franco mumbles so much you can’t understand half of what he’s saying anyway.

He lives with his sister (Fallon Goodson), who is also a schizophrenic. Catherine Keener is a friend named Catherine whose job as a caregiver consists mainly of combing their hair while she dresses like a man replete with toupee and Adolphe Menjou moustache. David Strathairn plays a gay neighbor who thinks he’s Mr. Franco’s aunt.

The film is abominably written and incomprehensibly directed by someone called, simply, Carter (like Cher or Pink, except nobody knows who he is—or cares). For your information, he’s the same man who made a previous film called Erased James Franco, in which the actor restaged scenes in his previous movies in case anyone missed them the first time around. In Maladies, pretentiousness reigns, substituting plot, reason and character development for pseudo-psychoanalysis. The film is divided, like an orange, into sections, separated by headings like “Symmetry” and “Things at one point don’t exist—and then they do.”

On one of his meandering sojourns on the beach accompanied by the flash camera he uses to take photographs of seaweed and sand, he runs into a blind woman and decides to rewrite his entire novel in braille. In one long, irrelevant scene, Mr. Franco wanders into a drugstore, sprays more shaving cream into his hands, spills a bottle of aspirin and goes berserk, while a numbing voice-over says, “At point A, you are one person. At point B, you are another person. At point C, you are again transformed into another … facet, area, zone.”

Where do they find people to green-light this dreck? Who pays the bills? Mr. Franco is one of a kind. I can’t remember another actor with his ability and looks who wastes so much time making so many worthless movies nobody wants to see.

Francophobia: ‘Maladies’ Is a Sickening Display of Cinematic Ineptitude