Independent Film Review: Fanny, Annie & Danny (2012)

Vanguard Entertainment
Runtime: 1 hour, 22 minutes
Rated: No MPAA rating (contains profanity and drug use)
Director: Chris Brown
Writer: Chris Brown
Starring: Jill Pixley, Carlye Pollack, Jonathan Leveck,
Colette Keen
Drama | Family

There is more than enough drama to go around at Christmas time when three siblings get together for that most wonderful time of the year.

Now, many words can be used to describe this family, but “wonderful” is not one you would choose. We get to meet each of the children separately, beginning with “Fanny” (Jill “Maisy’s Garden” Pixley), a struggler with severe mental issues, including OCD. She lives in a group home, plays the flute, washes her hands constantly, and annoys the hell out of everyone, but she’s one of the more delightful of the litter.

“Annie” (Carlye “Hollywood Confidential” Pollack) works as a dentist’s assistant. She’s planning to marry her pothead fiancé, “Todd” (Nick “Strapped” Frangione). He and responsible decision-making just don’t get along well. When’s she not fretting about money troubles or jealous about no longer being the center of attention at work, she’s a frisky presence (but she’s the second most level-headed person here).

“Danny” (Jonathan “Threads of Remorse” Leveck) is supposed to be the “big shot” of the family. He’s the object of mom’s affections, her pride and joy. His is also the most pleasing and entreating disposition of the whole gang. He acts just like your own brother or cousin you get to see around the holidays. He is intelligent, polite, and well mannered (enough so to not let his true colors bleed through around the people he decides shouldn’t see them).

“Ronnie” (George “Poisoned by Love: The Kern County Murders” Killingsworth) loves to reflect on his days in Vietnam. All that he really cares about is in a small garage filled with his clutter. His wife (“Edie,” Colette Keen) is a raspy-voiced, diabolical presence who can’t let a day pass without ravenously belittling him. Everything must be perfect with mom. Arrive 20 minutes early for dinner and see what happens. The two couldn’t be more opposite.

With holiday meal preparations and the struggles of simply being in different places in life and coming together to eat the same meal, the collision course the three are locked into in a small way reminded me of American Beauty (1999), but it reminded me of other things first. For instance, it brought to mind the very same family drama we all face on needlessly-made-stressful holidays. We’re talking about those “special occasion walkout” dramas we try like hell to avoid.

Drama is something Fanny, Annie, & Danny tries real hard at (and it never needed to lift a finger). The story is drama enough for anyone. In fact, if it had tried any harder, we’d have heard mom sharing her “in my day” stories with Civil War anecdotes instead of references to real work consisting of picking strawberries.

This is one intense film and it is so because of the pushed-to-the-extremes intensity of its characters that will make it difficult to endure for the wrong viewer—even when we find ourselves in total awe of the performances. The presence of them together ends up actually detracting from each other to a very small extent.

Mother is too outspoken. Ronnie is too silent; it’s like he’s not even there when he’s not the one speaking and on camera. Fanny is the latest type of movie fixation, the troubled and quirky one, the one audiences are supposed to be so fascinated to learn more about. She’s almost “Rain Woman,” but she still doesn’t reach us as expected.

Instead, we find her to be less than a poor soul soliciting our love. Weirdness is said to be taste bud stimulation for a film – and it is – but in this case, the script is too comfortably reliant on getting where its going by way of showcasing its contrasting character details—details that leave us hanging through the halfway mark as we still find ourselves crying out for reasons to be more emotionally invested in the people we are watching.

Nick Frangione, Jill Pixley

But we keep watching, even when we aren’t feeling the connections we need to be feeling. And then, the performances begin to work their magic and the weight of the story shifts and begins to penetrate us as it couldn’t help but do. Call it a moral treatise on keeping secrets or a tale about the fruits of human duplicity, but we reach a point where we start to feel as though this family is not too different from any other.

In the end, it is Brown’s well-placed plot components that come together to leave their mark in a way that so few independent films could or would. I have been hard on the film, mainly because it measures up so well against some big-name major releases, and regardless of whatever letter grade some critic gives it, this one is going to stand on its own two feet. And whereas many great indies will make lasting impressions, the craft of this little achiever will be one to remember long after the credits roll!