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'Frank the Bastard' a complex, engrossing mystery

A complex, engrossing mystery that holds up in repeated viewings, "Frank the Bastard" premiered in 2013 under the less unfortunate title "East of Acadia." Revolving around a dark chapter in a quaint New England town's history, like writer-director Brad Coley's previous effort, "The Undeserved," the new film has similarly suffered the fate of a long-overdue release.

Transplanted New Yorker Clair (Rachel Miner) returns to Maine, prodded and accompanied by her bestie, Isolda (Shamika Cotton), who discovers that the commune where Clair spent her early childhood is in foreclosure and on the auction block. When Clair was 6, she and her father abruptly left after her mother's untimely death. The towns folk still remember her, even though she has little recollection. But her Aunt Alice (Wendy Vanden Heuvel) is less than thrilled to see her.

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Clair gradually uncovers the uneasy tensions between idealist hippies and provincial harpies, environmentalism and capitalism, activism and corruption, theory and practicality, blood and water, etc.

Despite the film's made-for-TV aesthetic and performances, Coley has saturated its backstory with vividly drawn details that make this convoluted saga wholly believable. He went to the trouble of filming expository scenes that others might have excised for budgetary considerations, such as Clair's divorce proceedings and grainy home movies of hippies at the commune. These flourishes help flesh out the intricate characterizations that might otherwise have been just passing references in the dialogue.

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"Frank the Bastard."

No MPAA rating.

Running time: 1 hour, 52 minutes.

Playing: At Laemmle NoHo 7, North Hollywood. Also on VOD.

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