Being Frank ★★

Over the last few years, the likes of “Swiss Army Man,” “Time Out of Mind,” and “The Diary of a Teenage Girl” have established Miranda Bailey as one of the boldest and most forward-thinking producers in contemporary indie cinema. The films that she’s helped shepherd into the world run the gamut from deranged fart comedies to unflinching social dramas, but all of them are bound together by a radical sense of empathy and a refusal to judge their characters (that latter treat being especially appreciated at a time when many viewers approach movies as though everyone in them were on trial).

A sweet if styleless throwback that tries to milk a few sad laughs from the story of a teenager who discovers that his dad is parenting a second family on the side, Bailey’s narrative feature debut may not hold a candle to the work that she’s produced for other directors, but “Being Frank” (née “You Can Choose Your Family”) still manages to reaffirm what makes her such an essential voice in an increasingly restrictive space. Even when the movie feels like a sweatily-plotted sitcom that’s structured like a Ponzi scheme and criminally wastes its cast (which is often!), it dares to challenge the basic moral coding that most audiences bring with them into something like this; it dares to remind people that real life is never as black-and-white as we like to pretend it is from the cheap seats.

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