“Frankie and Johnny” and the remake of Sabrina appeared to be slam dunks for Paramount when they were released in 1991 and 1995, respectively. Despite name casts and respectable reviews, both were commercial disappointments, and various theories of varying ludicrousness were bandied about (particularly in the case of the former–one thought was that the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings had the target female audience glued to the television instead of at the cinemas). Away from the marketing hype, hopefully audiences will be able to see the films as the charmers that they are.
Garry Marshall’s “Frankie and Johnny” is an adaptation of the acclaimed play Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune by Terrence McNally, who also wrote the screenplay. The seriocomic film tells the tale of two average, working class losers, one a waitress, the other an ex-con-turned-cook, who overcome their emotional scars and fall in love. And who better to play these average losers than… glamorous Hollywood movie stars Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer. The casting is certainly a physical stretch, but these two A-List actors are definitely on their A game here, erasing most notions of miscasting through the passion of performance. Pacino is unusually understated here (the calm before the scenery-chewing storm that would win him the Oscar the following year) and all the more charming for it; and Pfeiffer quite believably brings to life Frankie’s insecurities and buried pain. Perhaps the film was simply too quiet for its own good to make an impression on moviegoers, but that very low key, unhurried approach (quite unusual for Marshall) adds to the film’s appeal.
Since both films were notable box office underachievers, it’s no surprise that for their DVD premieres, Paramount has taken the barebones approach: nothing more than average audio/video transfers and the theatrical trailer, though the Sabrina disc also offers a French language track.
“Frankie and Johnny” specifications: 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen; English 5.1 Surround; English Dolby Surround; English subtitles; English closed captioning.