(a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: This is a documentary account of a morbidly obese man who gets a last chance at life. Frank Ferrante is an abuser. Most of his life he has abused food, alcohol, drugs, and his personal relationships. Along the way Frank ruined his body and his life. Then one day he wandered in to a vegan, holistic cafe and the three proprietors offered to put him on a vegan raw food diet for 42 days to restore his health and his personal balance. His reactions and his progress, experiences, and reactions are documented. Frank improves his life using unconventional New Age therapies. The film is unpleasant at times and also surprisingly honest where Frank is less than totally successful. But Frank's positive personality shines through. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10

Frank Ferrante and three friends, Ryland, Conor, and Cary, are trying to save a life. It is the life of Frank Ferrante himself. Frank is a 54-year-old man who has abused food, alcohol, drugs-- including heroin, but in return they have abused him even more. Frank has spent a life giving in to every temptation until he weighs 290 pounds plus, has Hepatitis C, is nearly diabetic, and has alienated his family. But he also has the three friends whom he met at Cafe Gratitude, a raw, organic, vegan café. The three who run the café have a plan for getting Frank to redeem himself. They offer to put Frank through a regime of self-love, affirmations, natural vegan foods, yoga, and colonics. Over the 42 days we see Frank go through pain and effort as he ingests a lot of things that are not greatly pleasant. Franks diet consists of obscure concoctions like wheatgrass juice and coconut milk smoothies. He eats just nuts, fruits, and vegetables. And he affirms his new attitudes with mantras like "I, Frank, do love me. I am a perfect human being, radiant beauty and divine energy. I am divine. I now hold in my mind this new image of myself as a thriving, flourishing, gloriously beautiful human being." He uses these affirmations in trying to overcome pangs of guilt over people that he has hurt over the years.

While his improvement over the 42 days leads to many positive results, those results fall short of what Frank and the viewer might have hoped for. Pictures of Frank a few years later show he as lost a lot more weight and at least appears to be smiling.

What makes the film watchable is the fact that in spite of it all Frank himself has a winning personality. Whatever Frank has done before--and it is pretty bad to his siblings, his wife, and his daughter--Frank comes through as a man who can take his hard knocks and still laugh at them. He wants to lose weight and to break his drug habits so that he can redeem himself and fall in love one more time. He clearly has a way with beautiful women and people who still love him in spite of himself.

MAY I BE FRANK made in 2010 runs very parallel to Joe Cross's FAT, SICK, & NEARLY DEAD, also produced in 2010. Cross started out a bit heavier than Ferrante did. His regimen seemed to have involved less spirituality though he also depended a great deal on whole, natural foods. Cross did not have the problem with his relationships that Ferrante had and at the end of the film Cross seems to have healthier interactions with his family, though we cannot tell if that was just an aspect not covered by the film. Frank is perhaps too frank about matters of defecation. These sequences run on too long and try the patience of the viewer.

A story of the guilt-ridden overcoming their past and redeeming themselves will always have an audience. The viewer has to accept Frank more or less like his family does, not forgetting the ugly parts of his past, but trying to like Frank in spite of them. I rate it a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.

May I be frank? There are two ways to look at this film. One can see it as a portrait of Frank Ferrante and how his viewpoint changes over six weeks as he struggles to redeem himself and earn release. There may even be something to be learned from his new attitudes. But if the viewer takes the film as a recommendation for its unconventional medical views on health, that could be a mistake. Frank's loss of weight and his spiritual changes are perfectly consistent with mainstream views on health. Wheatgrass cocktails are probably a lot healthier for what they are not, e.g. sugared Coca-Cola, than for anything special that they are. Odd concoctions like wheatgrass juice have no demonstrated clinical value. Ryland, Conor, and Cary are not trained medical practitioners, they just run a cafe. It is not at all clear that Frank's rapid weight loss is not simply the result of commonplace dietary improvement. And the spirituality might have just given him motivation to stick rigorously to his diet. In any study Frank would be just one datum point, not evidence of any powerful medical truth.

Film Credits:

					Mark R. Leeper
					Copyright 2013 Mark R. Leeper