Members of the headshrinking community can’t even agree whether dissociative identity disorder, aka multiple personality, even exists, but it sure makes for award-winning drama. It got Joanne Woodward, with a little help from shrink Lee J. Cobb, an Oscar in Nunnally Johnson’s 1958 “The Three Faces of Eve.” It helped Sally Field, costarring with Ms. Woodward as Dr. Cornelia Wilbur, shed her “Flying Nun”/”Gidget” past with a nice shiny Emmy for 1976’s “Sybil.”
Now Halle Berry, or at least her producers, are apparently hoping for a bit more of that award-winning subject matter. This time there’s a racial twist and Stellan Skarsgard is probably just the right guy to step into the weighty shoes of the Woodward/Cobb role. Phylicia Rashad costars as Berry’s mom who, if “Frankie and Alice” runs true to form, will come in for most of the blame.
I might sound like I’m making snarky light of this as obvious Oscar bait. In a way I am, but I’m also entirely open to the possibility that, like “The Three Faces of Eve” and “Sybil” before it, “Frankie and Alice” will turn out to be a provocative, terrifically compelling drama with a first rate, if inevitably showy, lead performance. There are worse sub-sub-genres and the issue of ethnic identity and subtle self-hate is certainly not going away any time soon.
One interesting side note. Looking at the IMDb listing for this film, part of the original story credit — presumably the factual basis of the film — goes to the late Southern California-based psychologist Oscar Janiger. Janiger is best known noted for us his experimental use of LSD as a therapeutic tool during the late fifties and early sixties, with his most famous clients being Cary Grant and, a little less surprisingly, Jack Nicholson.