Monday, May 4, 2009

Frank Cooper Sleeps with the Fishes

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.
- Michael Corleone, The Godfather III

For a long time I've been defending the slow-on-the-uptake Frank Cooper. Yeah, I'd say, he's not smart, or particularly interesting, but he's decent. And, really, how could anyone blame a guy for being less than thrilled at being jilted at the alter? It's a pretty public form of humiliation, and few of us would be as ridiculously understanding and hopeful about the entire situation as Frank initially was. Toss in the fact that Olivia has done him wrong, big time, in the past, and there's a pretty strong argument for justifying just about any reaction Frankie might end up having, once the truth hit him on the head.

And then the other shoe dropped - Doris blew the whistle on Otalia, and Frank acted like such a fool, that even I couldn't defend his sorry ass. He got aggressive. He got even more stupid. He acted like a petulant child. And he made a big show of  barging into Natalia's home, showing off his wounds, and trying to 1) play the "Natalia-has-Catholic-guilt-and-will-take-care-of-me-and-maybe-feel-bad-enough-to-marry-me card, and 2) intimidate Olivia with his I'm-a-beat-you-up-after-school-'cause-you-hurt-my-feelings eye darts. This just bugged the shit out of me. The clincher for me, though, was this question, asked of Natalia, after she acknowledged that she and Olivia have feelings for one another:

What is it that you are, exactly?

Say what??? Once I heard that, all bets were off. It hurt to hear that question. Frankie, my boy, in one fell swoop you lost the only Otalia fan who has consistently pointed out your good qualities. It's not just what you asked Natalia, a woman you supposedly care about, but how you asked it. (Natalia's amazing response deserves an entire blog of its own. Or a GLAAD award. Watch this space.)  

Those seven ugly words out of his dopey mouth, filled with venom, and  I was sure  I'd wash my hands of Frank Cooper, once and for all, and stop playing Devil's Advocate for him. But, just like Michael Corleone keeps getting pulled back to the dark side, despite his efforts to go legit, Frank pulled me back in. How? 

Those of you who skip over any scene that doesn't include Olivia's trench coat or Natalia's dimples need to find the scenes of Frank and Rafe at the convenience store. (Nitpicky note: why the hell did Rafe and Natalia share such a tearful, emotional goodbye a few days ago, when living at the halfway house gives him the freedom to go out for a Slurpee?) These scenes are pivotal because they show Frank remembering, for a minute, that he's a terribly decent sort of guy. A lesser man - the shitty guy who asked Natalia "What is it that you are, exactly?" - would have blurted out something nasty to Rafe. Something about "you mom ruined my life" or "your mom is a filthy lesbian." What does Frank do, though? Frank, who I've just minutes ago written off as a total bastard? He says:

Your mom is a great lady. She stands up for the people that she loves, and if you happen to be one of those people, then you're very lucky.....Don't ever forget that, and don't ever let anyone convince you other than that. 

And just like that, all my venom for Frank Cooper disappeared. I still don't excuse his nasty tirade at the hospital, but really, I can understand where it came from. He really is terribly decent, if dull and slow.  And, in a pinch, when it really matters, he does and says the right thing.  I can cut him some slack and go back to playing Devil's Advocate for him. Life has been less than kind to him.  He's not smart or quick-witted. He's always passed over.  He's never been fun and adventurous like Harley. Or lovable and talented like Coop. He's not charismatic, like Buzz. He's definitely not larger-than-life, the way Nadine was.  He's sort of the family loser. The guy who never gets to leave town, or have a real adventure, or win anything. He's always the last to know. Frank Cooper is Fredo.

1 comment:

Robert said...

I totally get what you mean about Frank. I found his dig mean-spirited, but in the context of story, felt it made perfect sense. And then being essentially a good guy, he couldn't maintain anger and tell Rafe the truth about why the wedding won't take place, knowing it was deep down Natalia's right to tell her son the truth. This is in essence what good soap is all about (and which too many writers have forgotten): any story can work as long as the characters's motivations make sense.