If you enjoy philosophical discourse and if you find many flaws, dualities, and contradictions at large in society then Frenemy (also known as Little Fish, Strange Pond) aims to pique your interest. If you also require substance and deep insight, however, you might choose to look further than this film—(the same goes for anyone who sees the DVD cover and thinks that Zach Galifianakis is actually a prominent character. Ironically, he’s not. It’s a superficial marketing ploy).
The skinny’s that this film takes on some giant issues and pulls every one of its punches, resulting in an uneventfully fated K.O. (Perhaps you’d prefer a nice boxing flick instead).
Two men of unknown relation played by Mathew Modine and Callum Blue meander around the streets of L.A and chat about everything from good versus evil to determinism versus freewill, and manage to murder a waitress along the way, but rest assured that thousands of years of diligent philosophical inquiry into these topics is not adequately researched or represented in the characters’ insights, (perhaps because they’re pre-determined by a mean, and uncreative god who scripted them to run tangents proceeding scenes of gore and violence).
Did I mention that Modine and Blue play mentally ill characters? Actually, despite ample evidence, I’m not entirely sure because it all hinges on my interpretation, which brings me to a point about using blatantly “surreal” (a.k.a intentionally mystifying and confusing) plot twists and devices: if a viewer can’t relate to anything, then guess what? They won’t relate to your film. So, unless you’re prone to being fooled by intentionally bizarre characters and sequences of events and are led to believe that what you’re seeing is “deep”, the opening line, onward, might cause you to repeatedly ask yourself: what the hell am I missing here?
Another huge mystifying factor is the fragmented storyline of detective Tommy (Adam Baldwin). At one point he pops some pills and drinks until he vomits on his rug as though we understand and are completely moved by whatever phantom problem is actually irking him. Aside from serving as a recipient of a few cop-bashing lines, his character contributes little meaning or depth to the rest of the film.
Frenemy is one of those indie films where you could tell there was a great idea starting out but that crap hit the computer screen when hashing it out. Frenemy’s general idea of laying out society’s dichotomies and contradictions is a noble and worthy endeavour. So is shedding a light on the inner lives of mentally ill people who are plunged into the chasms of American societies’ care systems (if that is the film’s intention).
In any case, Frenemy takes on way too much, way too fast and doesn’t do justice to anything it delves into, instead finding it sufficient to deliver a clever one-liner or offer up a philosophical tangent that merely highlights a viscous act of violence, which itself delivers nothing to the overall meaning of the film or in any way justifies its occurrence in the first place.
One thing I did like about Frenemy are the odd moments when the film offers great insight into the psychological disconnect of Callum Blue’s character, Sweet Stephen. On the other hand, you might want to watch Peter Winter (Peter Greene) in Lodge Kerrigan’s Clean, Shaven (1993) for this insight instead.