On and on the puzzling writing choices in Uncle Frank go, which include the decision to have the first-half of Uncle Frank center on sexually ribald dialogue. Numerous references to erections and oral sex abound. Now, I'm not at all opposed to sexually frank comedy. In this context, though, it proves awkward since Uncle Frank drops that kind of dialogue immediately once the halfway mark hits. Once the third act dovetails into being a Hallmark movie, one can't help but wonder what the hell was up with all the quasi-Kevin Smith dialogue. It's just another confusing element of a production that wouldn't know its own head from its tail.
Ball's generic direction only further compounds the problems of Uncle Frank. Ball can't let any big emotional moment go by without playing things in such a gratingly broad manner. The performances must be over-the-top; the camera must be inches away from people's faces; Nathan Barr's score must drown the audience's ear in treacly music that makes it obvious that we're watching something "important". It's all fine for making clips made exclusively for Oscar nomination reels. In any other respect, though, the filmmaking for Uncle Frank only exacerbates the problems found in its screenplay.
All of these shortcomings leave a stacked cast (Judy Greer, Margo Martindale and Steve Zahn all play supporting roles) with nothing to work with. Peter Macdissi fares best out of all the actors. Though he gets some of the worst hackneyed comedy lines, Macdissi lends a believable warmth to Wally that's extremely endearing. His best moments inject Uncle Frank with a kind of humanity it's otherwise totally missing. The ham-fisted narration of Uncle Frank's opening scene turned out to be a bad omen. It foretold a movie so clumsily written that its script would saddle its titular character with a generic tragic backstory and then shove him into the background of his own story. That kind of fatal flaw is just one of the many ways Uncle Frank goes so tragically awry.