James Franco's latest film, called "Maladies," is a moody, introspective, and ultimately self-indulgent hodgepodge of a film that further solidifies Franco's reputation as a dilettante. It seems like a student film and doesn't contain anything that resonates.
James Franco's character is an artist. The film begs you to applaud this fact every time you see him on the screen. Look at him, scribbling away while listening to static on the radio. Look at him having a nervous breakdown in a drugstore. He's the real deal, folks!
James Franco's sister, Patricia, played by Fallon Goodson, is a silent, bug-eyed observer of Franco. She sits in her 50's-style poofy dress in the corner and smokes cigarettes even though she knows it annoys everyone (although everyone else is so lost in their own thoughts that they barely register the actions of those around them) because she has no creative talent. In an early scene, Patricia drinks a glass of water as if she's been wandering the desert for 40 years, gulping it down so quickly that it spills all over her dress. There's an actual subplot about glasses of water and how everyone in the cast drinks water. Because, well, because James Franco just wrote an essay about water and it means a lot to him right now!
Catherine Keener plays Franco's friend, and she is a painter. She paints Rorschach inkblots and dresses like a man sometimes, because she's also an artist. Catherine just wants everyone to get along, and she wants James to stop having panic attacks and obsessing about death and making life hard for himself.
James wanders around 2012 Brooklyn, which is supposed to look like 1950's Brooklyn because two people on the street are wearing period piece clothing. Franco walks along the beach by his house and listens to an omniscient narrator explain to him how wonderful it is that he has the ability to use his arms. He picks up the phone in a telephone booth and hears voices in the dial tone. He tells Catherine things like "Everything in the world was made by someone," and "Everything that is, wasn't at some point" and "I know where I am at point A, and I know where I am at point B, but I don't understand how I got to point C." Catherine hugs him and smiles because -- wow! -- what a hottie intellectual.
Alan Cumming plays James's gay admirer. He lives next door and (meta alert!) watches James play himself on a soap opera all day long. All Alan Cummings wants to do is rub himself against Franco's penis. But Franco don't swing that way, and he's sick of being called an "actor" by Cummings because he's a "writer" now, got it? This is very important to Franco, like the thing with the water.
The film plods along, barely able to capture a single emotion, lost in its own unique brand of creative suffering, until Franco goes insane, sprays shaving cream all over himself, gets tackled by a bunch of cops, ends up in jail and then, abruptly (though not surprisingly) dies. It's now up to Catherine to translate his entire manuscript into braille because Franco met a blind woman once and thought she was holy.
Welcome to the back of Franco's mind. It is just as boring as you thought it would be.