Frank & Cindy by G.J. Echternkamp is among the most insanely disturbing home movies you will ever watch. It’s also among the most heartfelt. It isn’t a “home movie.” The documentary quite professionally made and photographed. However, it is a close-knit and candid movie about Echternkamp’s family. Fortunately, his family is somewhat crazy or even very crazy and Echternkamp calls them “cinematic gold.”
Cindy’s First Connection
The film’s opening claims to be a study of his mother and step-peculiar father’s marriage. Frank and Cindy first connected when he was the bassist in a 1980s pop band; Cindy is 20 years older than Frank. OXO is essentially a one-hit wonder, although their single, “Whirly Girl,” just about made it into the Top 40. However, they did get to meet Dick Clark and perform on American Bandstand. Cindy was swept off her feet at the moment by Frank, a genuine romantic as you can tell, and they were married quite shortly. She had fantasized about attending the Emmys with him, but the band only managed to put out one album before splitting up.
Moving forward After about twenty years, Frank’s solo career has stalled, and he now spends all of his time in a home studio that Cindy, who has been helping to support Frank and G.J. with her meager work as a receptionist, bought. Frank and Cindy still live together but largely lead separate lives in the same home. He stays in his basement studio with a makeshift toilet built out of various buckets and bottles while she lives upstairs.
Echternkamp’s Initial Intentions
Despite Echternkamp’s initial intentions, his film is merely intended to parody and exploit his eccentric step-dad. Hence the inclusion of the advice about the makeshift lavatory. However, a funny event occurs en route to the exploitation. Echternkamp develops a closer bond with Frank and Cindy as he interviews them for the movie intermittently over a year, and as a result, the movie ends up being more about his relationship with them than it is merely about the relationship between the mother and stepfather. The sit-down interviews with Frank and Cindy get progressively more in-depth and descriptive of the experiences this family has had over the past 20 years.
Sadly, there has been a lot of drug and alcohol misuse in this family, and it has broken them apart. Cindy was an alcoholic during G.J.’s formative years, despite being sober today, and the grief in her voice at not being there more for her son is heartbreaking. Additionally, reports of a vehicle accident and G.J. being taken from her for extended periods are shocking to hear, and director Echtenkamp is not involved in any of it. Even though he is hearing some of this information for the first time, he interrogates Cindy in a very detached manner and shows no signs of delight, rage, or anguish at her discoveries. However, it almost looks like a ploy to get more out of his mother because a confrontation or even just a reply would be enough to silence her.
Frank Is Insane
On the one hand, Frank is a wonderful target for exploitation because he has battled his drug difficulties. Frank is insane in a nice way, that is. He strikes me as a likable, though occasionally annoying, fun-loving guy. Even though Cindy repeatedly swears at him throughout the movie, she eventually wanders into his studio for a little music-jamming and groovy dancing fun. Frank appears to live his life with a sardonic twinkle in his eye, as though he’s always up for getting into trouble.
Frank is to be pitied. Even the brief taste of fame he received was too much for him to handle at such a young age. This man just ever wanted to make music and have fun, but after signing with Geffen Records at the age of 19, he watched his passion develop into a continuous job doing interviews, signing records, and lip-syncing on television. The event sapped him of his enthusiasm for music-making, leaving him with a void that led to drug and alcohol misuse. Cindy and G.J. only wish to see Frank relive that bliss.
Echternkamp ultimately goes far beyond simply “exploiting” his parents. Given the turbulence he experienced as a child and the sensitive and sympathetic portrayal he has created of them, the movie could have taken on a considerably harsher tone if he had held any anger for them. It’s a welcome relief to discover that he hasn’t.