‘Frankie & Alice’ only moderately engaging

“Frankie & Alice” is one of those projects that lingered unproduced for years. Principal photography for the 1970s-set drama about a young woman who suffers from multiple personality disorder began in late 2008.

Prior to filming, actress Halle Berry, the movie’s star and one of its producers, secured and lost the rights to the story many times over a 10-year period.

Berry won an Oscar for her performance in “Monster’s Ball,” the 2001 drama that was filmed in LaPlace and at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. Despite her Oscar prestige, the realization of Berry’s pet project, “Frankie & Alice,” remained elusive. With eight writers sharing credit for the screenplay and the story, the script appears to be one stumbling block.

The difficulty of bringing “Frankie & Alice” to the screen continued after it was filmed. Following very limited screening in late 2010, the film finally gets a wider release this weekend.

Berry’s dedicated, admirable multi-personality performance as Frankie Murdoch in “Frankie & Alice” doesn’t keep the film from being an underachievement. Yet the actress and her principal co-star, Stellan Skarsgård, nearly raise the film to the inspirational and dramatic levels it aspires to. Unfortunately, their A-list performances exist in a B movie. Despite special moments, the film simply stays afloat in familiar waters.

Skarsgård plays Dr. Joseph Oswald, aka Dr. Oz, the physician who admits Frankie to a psychiatric hospital after police find her freaking out in a busy L.A. street. Dr. Oz could give Frankie the minimal care required of him. Instead, he cares enough to go the extra, necessary distance.

Dr. Oz and Frankie and her alternative personalities — a racist white woman named Alice and a brilliant child named Genius — do make a modestly interesting journey together. But their discoveries don’t ring with the drama and satisfaction Berry hoped would be realized through telling Frankie’s story.

“Frankie & Alice” ends up being mostly a showcase for Berry.

She’s commanding as Frankie and Alice, the alternative personality who gets the real Frankie in much trouble. Berry’s performance as Genius, though, is more creepy than touching. It’s here that the film unintentionally slides into the realm of horror.

Berry and Skarsgård’s team effort in “Frankie & Alice” doesn’t earn the movie a theatrical release. Moderately engaging, the film is more suited to cable TV viewing and Netflix.