Celebrity families are nothing new in Hollywood, but few have been less likely than the Stallone brothers. Frank and Sylvester Stallone broke out in the 1970s and 1980s. Sly’s superstar performance made him an overnight celebrity. Frank, on the other hand, faced an uphill struggle throughout his career. Living in the shadow his brother left a chip on Frank’s shoulder, but he found his own success in time. Stallone: Frank, That Is chronicles Frank’s rise to superstardom. However, a frenetic and improvisational style leaves the film without narrative or plot. The resulting film provides few reasons to reevaluate Frank as the performer or genius it paints him as.
Stallone: Frank, That Is admits that its subject loves to tell stories and embraces its subject’s disposition. The editing jumps through every detail at warp-speed, creating a frenetic and ever-changing direction for the film to follow. From his childhood through his rise in the 1980s, you will hear dozens of stories and asides that never come back to inform us about his character. Interviews with childhood friends and former bandmates lay on the praise, framing Frank as a musical genius. The similarities to Robert Evans and The Kid Stays in the Picture are impossible to ignore. Frank elevates himself from being a footnote in some stories into an underdog role as he fights for success. One particularly ill-informed story recounts the difficulty of making a record with Harry Nilsson after John Lennon’s assassination. He does not throw negativity toward Nilsson (the opposite, in fact), but placing the album’s recording as the center of the story also feels insensitive.
Director Derek Wayne Johnson returns to the well-worn ground with his portrait of Frank Stallone. Previously the director shone a light on the Rocky franchise for its 40th Anniversary. He also profiled Academy Award-winning director John G. Avildson’s career. With Stallone: Frank, That Is, Johnson looks to capture his own underdog tale. Unfortunately, Johnson shoots the entire film through a series of interviews, with few authentic moments present. Instead, his documentary plays as a one-note attempt at mythmaking.
Much of the film wallows in what Frank Stallone should have had, instead of what happened for his career. Frank Stallone’s passion for music is clear from the opening scenes, and he does experience some genuine hardships. He tells stories about the failed tours and pressure to strike a record deal. At one point, Frank is shot by the owner of a gun store, threatening to destroy his career in the process. Yet Frank continually jumps back up and finds his way back on the path towards fame.
Sadly, the film mostly ignores discussion of the relationship between the two brothers. The two men show clear affection, yet Frank seems to resent aspects of his brother’s success. Sly’s rise was meteoric and often stood in the way of Frank’s success. Stallone finds juice when examining this dynamic, especially when Frank is known as “Rocky’s brother” while touring as part of a band. They even discuss the possibility of Frank changing his name. Yet, the speed of the film never lets us live in these moments. Instead, it bulls through them, and we’re onto the next topic on Frank’s mind.
Unless you have an affinity for Frank Stallone, it is unlikely you’ll be drawn to Stallone: Frank, That Is. Stitching together dozens of interviews with celebrities does not make for a compelling narrative. Despite its swift editing and mere 72-minute runtime, the film drags to a standstill. It’s difficult to imagine Stallone will catch hold with audiences outside his base.