David Frank (Lost’s Henry Ian Cusick) is a former “corporate whore” attorney, who’s now content to sit at home all day and threaten Mormon missionaries with firearms. A curmudgeon who seems to have suffered more than most in his life, there are now only two things he really cares about. One is his niece, who happens to have leukemia. The other is his dog, who is then taken from him, along with his house, in a freak tornado.
To add insult to injury, the insurance company refuses to pay the damages for the destruction, ruling it an Act of God. So, what else would a formerly sleazy, now embittered lawyer do in that situation? He decides God should pay for the damages and sues him in a court of law.
The religious aspect of this film is surprisingly well researched. In order to have God answer for his actions, David gathers together representatives from a variety of different religions, including Judaism, Catholicism, Islam, Buddhism, and others. Several of them speak at length about their faith and what “the plaintiff” means to them, and each one is portrayed both accurately and reverently.
Also surprisingly well researched is the legal aspect of the film. Hollywood isn’t known for its accuracy when presenting court cases on screen. But, of course, if this were a major Hollywood movie, it wouldn’t have premiered at Dances With Films (whose slogan is “Defiantly Independent since 1998”). Much of the legal process is shown here, including several of the “boring parts” that are usually skipped (made much less boring here by the banter between David and Rachel, the passionately idealistic defense attorney). Then, during the case itself, David uses legal precedents in everything from corporate law to jurisdiction law to make his case sound plausible.
The real standout performance in this film is, of course, Henry Ian Cusick. His character is established right from the beginning as being pretty unlikeable, but then he turns around and immediately makes us like him—at times, even when he’s being at his most curmudgeonly. He’s a good man, and a principled man, who’s just been jaded by tragedy. This could have easily become a cliché, but Cusick makes the character believable and identifiable, tapping into the emotions that we all feel from time to time. After all, who among us hasn’t suffered senseless tragedy and dared to ask why?
This film manages to be both laugh-out-loud funny, as well as thoughtful. The humor fades a bit as the film gets underway, and the thoughtful, philosophical aspect takes over. But, there are still enough laughs, and enough general fun, to carry us through the movie. Frank vs. God takes us on a journey of religion and spirituality, and whatever your beliefs are, it’s a journey worth taking.