The Franco Files — #1


It’s been a new year for a little while now, but it’s been even longer since I’ve introduced a new concept/feature to this humble little pet project of mine.

Dudes and dudettes, I have to say I’ve waited long enough to unveil this idea, and after sitting on this for awhile I think it’s time to allow this guy to stretch his legs. I present to you fine folks, THE FRANCO FILES, a monthly feature in which I will break down a certain performance from one of my favorite actors, Mr. James Franco and detail his impact in the film he takes part in. I haven’t yet decided whether or not to expand this feature to other actors later, although that is entirely possible. For now, it will remain relative to the work of James Franco, whether it is a lead role or a contributing supporting role; however major or minor, if his name is billed, it counts.

My hope is that, through this extended feature, I bring some attention to just how exactly a single performer can influence a film, as well as turn a spotlight on the nuances of this particular actor’s entire body of work. I hope you enjoy.


Francophile #1: Aron Ralston, 127 Hours

Role Type: Lead

Genre: Biographical drama/Biopic

Character Profile: Mr. Franco plays 27-year-old Aron Ralston, an outdoor enthusiast from Colorado (born in Ohio). This is no ordinary adventurer, however, when in 2003, Ralston found himself trapped in a narrow section of canyon in the remote regions of southeastern Utah after dislodging a boulder and getting his right hand pinned between it and the canyon wall. In an improbable fight for survival, Franco is tasked with conveying the long descent into panic and despair as he exhausts all options for escape over a five day period. Given Ralston’s experience outdoors, and an incredible ability to think rationally and strategically, Franco has been presented quite the challenge in managing emotional extremes, especially since overdoing any given emotion could ruin the film’s startling realism. To his credit, overacting in this situation could be an easy mistake to make, and yet he handles the job with grace and dignity. His Aron Ralston is one of the actor’s very best performances.

If you lose Franco, the film loses: It’s heart. There is no doubt that 127 Hours is Franco’s film. It is impossible to think of this movie without picturing his many facial expressions and playful mannerisms, even before things get serious. Since the film’s debut in 2010, despite his many other film appearances, it’s also equally difficult separating the actor from this experience. Strong direction from Danny Boyle certainly helps elevate the drama,  but the bulk of this emotionally draining experience rests upon the former Freaks & Geeks star’s shoulders.

Out of Character: “When Danny told me how he wanted me to approach this film and this role, I listened to him. He wanted me to meet with him extensively beforehand, learn everything I could from Aron. But when we shot, it would be more of a performance from the inside-out. He would put me through certain paces so that I would have my own experience, so that I wasn’t trying to slavishly recreate all the nuances of Aron’s behavior, but instead he would put me in situations that were close enough to Aron’s — short of me cutting my own arm off — so that, yeah I would have my own experience. So in that sense, maybe you do get a lot of me. He was very interested in a comedic side to this role. It was very important to balance out the intensity of some of the material and to get the audience on board with the character early on.”

Rate the Performance (relative to his other work):


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29 thoughts on “The Franco Files — #1

  1. Pingback: The Franco Files #11 | digitalshortbread

  2. Pingback: The Franco Files – #2 | digitalshortbread

  3. Love the feature, quite innovative! And Franco is a good start, I recommend reading up on his next project for your own personal fun. Although, I am sure you are already aware of this. He wants to remake “The Room”, which is widely considered the worst film of all time. If you have never you-tubed clips of this film, please do. Hilarious!

    Anyways, this film looks interesting. Heard about it, but never watched it. Loved the process Franco had to go through in order to make it authentic. Such a nice touch…


    • Hey dude, thanks!! Had to experiment, figured it was worth the risk and as it turns out, it has received a good response. So I’m glad. It also gives me a chance to combat against the expense of going out to the theater so often and doing new release reviews hahah. It starts to add up. Franco is good, the only concern I have is that he doesn’t have the HUGEST catalogue, so I might run thin after several months of this. Of course, he has upcoming projects too. The one that you mentioned I have actually not heard of but I’m checking into that right now. Thanks for the heads up.


      • That saves you time and money! No, he does not, but I am not educated on his catalog at all, so I will be very interested in reading your posts. I am assuming you will be reviewing the Spiderman series, and “As I Lay Dying”.

        You will get a few laughs checking out the original. That is a guarantee.


  4. Cool feature – I thought you were going to be covering the many odd or eccentric things that Franco does (which I’d also enjoy). I have just love James Franco ever since Freaks & Geeks, no matter what hijinks he gets himself into. This role is probably the height of his acting career so far, and it’s definitely an amazing movie all around completely built on Franco’s shoulders. I’m on board with your 8/8.


    • Hey thanks Jess! Glad you agree, he is simply terrific in this movie. I am a fan of these kinds of films as well, and with a great lead performance from one of my favorites, this makes it a really worthwhile watch. Thanks for stopping on by! 🙂


    • Thanks Chris. I figured I should prob start from a high point! 🙂 This was his greatest work (thus far, anyway). Look forward to bringing you all some more of this feature.


  5. Nice approach Tom. Will be interested to see your thoughts on more of his performances. This is a great film. Probably my favourite film that Franco is in. It is weird, a bunch of people seem to hate Franco (he is rather intelligent and often comes across as smug), but I am a big fan of him. He is an interesting director too, but his films are pretty hard to come by. Think I have seen three of them now.


    • Wow, for a fan of his, I apparently haven’t done my homework. Didn’t know he’s directed any. . well, okay outside of As I Lay Dying. Need to see that soon. I personally love the guy, yet I do see the criticisms lodged against him, he can seem a bit smug. Glad you agree about his work in 127 Hours, I defy anyone to not stand up and cheer towards the end of it. Inspirational to say the least. Not just because of the real-life story, either.


  6. I think this is going to be an awesome feature, well done Tom! I honestly have not seen this one because I keep thinking it is going to be a total bore, and the entire things needs to be carried by an actor who will keep you going… you may have sold me on checking this out at some stage!


    • That’s a pretty fair assessment I’d say, it’s a bit of a drag in some spots but leave it up to Danny Boyle to make things interesting in a hurry! If you like Franco in the slightest, he’ll win you over here in the final moments. I almost would compare it to Tom Hanks’ last 10 minutes in Captain Phillips, perhaps not QUITE as dramatic, but the situations are equally brutal/ridiculous. I highly recommend it. 😀


    • Hello Cara, thanks so much. I’m glad you enjoy it. I think it will add a new dimension here, since I haven’t really ever gotten into the details about really any actor in any movie. Yes, 127 Hours is a great one, particularly for Francophiles! 😉


  7. Good stuff man! I’m in the middle of the road when it comes to Franco, but I gotta say he was great in “127 Hours”. I’ve watched that film many times and it’s such a unique role with very particular challenges.


    • Thanks Keith, nicely summed up by the way. It really is a unique position he has here. Not only the emotional experience but the nature of this character. In an interview it’s also funny to hear Franco claim how much of an urban guy he is. . .virtually the opposite of who he plays here.


    • Cheers James, glad you approve! 😀 You should get to seeing this at some point, I think it has an appeal outside of those who love the outdoors because it is such a compelling story of the will to survive. And if you like Franco just a teeny bit, this one grips you from the start in my humble opinion.


      • I like Franco … Sometimes. I think him the best part of some movies (Spring Breakers, The Iceman, etc) and the worst part of others (Oz jumps to mind).

        But this one definitely seems intriguing.


      • Funny you should mention Oz. I was just thinking before I was starting off this feature how I am going to cover films like that, where I, even being a big fan of his, will have a hard time saying anything positive about his performance. I guess that’s why I brought the pie-rating scale into the fold here. 😉


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