Filmmaker Chris Brown has been compared to director John Cassavetes for his ability to peel back the skin of his characters in a way that feels both disturbingly intimate and deeply real. In Brown's latest, finely-crafted feature, Fanny, Annie & Danny are three troubled adult siblings brought together by their horrific mother for the Christmas holiday. Like just about everything in Brown’s work, what seems commonplace on the surface becomes riveting in the details.
We first meet Fanny, an obsessive-compulsive who lives in a group home and works at a candy factory about to go bankrupt. Fanny brings this secret to the Christmas dinner, where she reconnects with her self-absorbed sister Annie and their too-perfect-to-trust brother Danny. Mother Edie hosts the party with an iron fist, insisting at an ever-increasing pitch that everyone have fun. Their Vietnam vet father may act like his emotions died with his friends on the battlefield, but director Brown continually lets his audience glimpse the last few pulses of compassion the broken man has for those around him.
As with a storm building strength silently offshore, we sense the impending climax without knowing exactly when or where it will hit – or how hard.
"Fanny, Annie & Danny was a story that more or less grabbed me by the throat and demanded to be told. A couple of years ago, I was working, laboring, on another screenplay, fully intending to shoot it. But a strange thing happened. The very moment I actually finished that script, these other, new characters began talking to me, nagging at me in that weird, semi-schizoid way that characters will speak to a writer. These characters, these people, were raw and beautiful and funny and mean and difficult, like the people I know and love, people who are hemmed in by circumstances, people who have to fight and claw and scratch every day for survival, for love, for stature, for money, for acceptance, for recognition. I know it sounds totally ridiculous, but these characters literally forced me to tell their story, forced me to shove aside this other script and give them life on the page and ultimately on the screen. A few months later we began shooting.
Someone recently remarked that he thought the film was about 'invisible people.' I think that this is a perfect phrase. So many movies are about other movies, known genres, wish-fulfillment, dead forms. Characters in movies are much too often two-dimensional ideas and cliches, props for the plot or excuses for fancy camerawork. The characters in Fanny, Annie & Danny are messy and wonderful and devastating and mean and kind and petty and vulnerable — just like us."
– Filmmaker, Chris Brown