I fear for the future of
And when I say acting, I'm referring to Franco's portrayal of other characters, not the growing number of meta performances the actor is amassing.
It's not that Franco is bad at playing Franco. If anything, the problem is how good his self-referential work has become in the years since his 2011 Oscar nomination for playing someone else in
But as we've seen with
Franco's most recent meta moment is a quirky turn in "Veronica Mars," the big-screen version of the much-mourned TV series, which lands in theaters March 14. With star
Only two degrees separate Franco from his Hollywood brethren in "Mars," which seems a fair reading of how exponentially his meta-existence has grown. Very funny, but...
Last year's comic riff about the actor's Franco-essence —
The actor has few recent non-Francofied roles worth noting.
He was excellent as Alien, a drug-running gangster-rapper in 2012's indie hit
Even last year's big mainstream movie
It is possible to see a method in the madness. The films are often intriguing ideas that seem born of a restless and complicated mind. "Interior. Leather Bar.," for instance. Franco's homage to William Friedkin's controversial 1980 film, "Cruising," premiered at the
Whether "Interior" will ultimately be considered a misunderstood artistic triumph or a self-indulgent interlude remains to be seen. But the provocative — sometimes intellectually, sometimes sexually, always artistically — seems to be the driving force for Franco's career decisions.
The result at the moment is a mixed bag. When he infamously auctioned "invisible art," one piece called "Fresh Air" brought $10,000. I blame the buyer. A stint on the daytime soap "General Hospital" is passed off as performance art, but I wonder.
There is "Palo Alto," Franco's short-story collection. It was the basis for a marginal 2013 film in which he starred, and yet his writing in the book is impressive. Also, the PhD work he's doing at Yale seems serious.
Next week, Franco hits Broadway in a preview of a production of John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men," which begins its run in April. He,
I'm hopeful, given the pedigree of the play and its director, but the idea of Franco onstage is slightly frightening for many of us who carry 2011 Oscar memories. That year, the Oscar nominee and another rising talent,
Meanwhile, Franco is not sitting idle on-screen; at least 13 film projects are due this year or next. But will the quality match the quantity?
Though quite a few continue the experimental indie approach, there are two promising animation projects. One is based on the literary favorite "The Little Prince." The other, "Sausage Party," also stars
There is a clearer sense of Franco in flux in looking at the films he's directed, and there are a few of those in the coming projects. Because he stars in these films and often writes them, what you usually see on-screen is an allegiance to acting first. And when the acting wins every argument — over script tightening, scene editing, location and set choices, camera angles — the film suffers.
Frankly, Franco is better when he is in better hands. I'm looking forward to his reteaming with the smartly twisted minds of Goldberg and Rogen in "The Interview." And I'm especially curious to see how he fares with Werner Herzog in "Queen of the Desert" and Wim Wenders in "Everything Will Be Fine." These are directors of the caliber who might, like
Joaquin Phoenix stands as the model for how to survive a meta-meltdown marvelously. The actor followed his Oscar-nominated 2005 turn in "Walk the Line" with "early retirement," "rapping," a disastrous appearance on "Late Show With
It's not too late for Franco either. I hope the metamorphosis is already underway.