A documentary for people who find Grey Gardens too compassionate, Echternkamp’s home-video portrait of his mother and stepfather has the feel of a purge. Previously excerpted on the TV version of This American Life, a story that might otherwise seem like garden-variety exploitation is, in this case, ostensibly rendered amusing by the fact that Dad once belonged to an ’80s hair band. (He supplies the film’s soundtrack; you have been warned.)
Cindy married this rock star at his peak—only to see him transform into a ne’er-do-well alcoholic who relieves himself in coffee cans and bides his time in boxers, strumming his guitar. A screeching Bette Davis to Frank’s (often) shut-in Joan Crawford, Cindy spends much of the movie expressing remorse for her mothering skills and screaming directives at Frank, who just flashes his shit-eating grin and offers to play a song. His attempts to quit drinking provide a semblance of narrative shape.
Looking out for his parents in his own way, Echternkamp dubiously tells them that they’re “solid gold” as movie characters. But Frank & Cindy frequently plays like a glib video résumé, especially when Echternkamp—a TV commercial actor looking for work—shows off his dancing skills. You can’t really blame him: With parents this fucked up, he’s entitled to milk their bickering for cash. That doesn’t mean we have to watch, though.