In my personal pantheon, Barney Frank moves up from minor hero to major hero with “Let’s Get Frank” (First Run Features ($24.95), Bart Everly’s profile of the gay Massachusetts congressman. It brings out the wit, intelligence and honesty that have endeared him to the people of his state from 1981, when they first sent him to Washington, through 1989 when he survived the sex scandal that brought him out, to the present day.
And beyond. In an 11-minute 2006 interview added to the DVD Frank says, “I’m sure I won’t still be in Congress when I’m 75 that’s nine years from now. Sometime after 70, me and my dignity are gonna get the hell out of there.”
The update is useful because most of “Let’s Get Frank” is ancient history, centered on the 1998 impeachment hearings for President Clinton. As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, Frank provided comic relief and was much sought after by the media (hence the film’s title) for his comments.
There are flashbacks to Frank’s own scandal, when it was revealed that Steve Gobie, a male prostitute, had turned tricks in Frank’s apartment. The Representative feels surviving that made him eminently qualified to serve on the panel judging Clinton, because he had nothing left to fear. As if to prove him right, committee chair Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) and Georgia Rep. Bob Barr are both outed as adulterers during the proceedings.
Frank comes across as a left-wing Archie Bunker, whose curmudgeonly exterior makes his utterings all the more hilarious. Yet there’s also an element of truth in them, as when he says, “Most Americans are not nearly as homophobic as they were brought up to think they were supposed to be.”
Adding to the historic nature of the documentary are the prominence of Frank’s now-deceased mother, Elsie, and his now-former partner, Sergio Pombo, with whom he walks off into the sunset at the end.
“Let’s Get Frank” can be marketed as a comedy in most of the Western world, where people are convulsed by America’s puritanical attitude toward sex.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, October 13, 2006.