You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Frank & Lola’

Michael Shannon and Imogen Poots are terrific in a canny little neo-noir that takes an authentic look at the dark side of love.

Michael Shannon, Imogen Poots, Michael Nyqvist, Justin Long, Stella Schnabel, Rosanna Arquette, Emmannuelle Devos.
Release Date:
Dec 9, 2016

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1290138/fullcredits/

In the ’90s, the “Pulp Fiction” revolution inspired a whole lot of bad “Pulp Fiction” imitations, and it also brought forth a new wave of faux film noir — “stylish” low-budget indie thrillers that featured ceiling fans and light glaring through venetian blinds and ’40s-meets-’90s vamps in designer lipstick who strutted and posed like the femmes fatales of legend. Most of these movies were so busy fetishizing the trappings of black-and-white romantic crime cinema that they missed the down-and-dirty essence of it: the thrilling everydayness of noir sleaze. “Frank & Lola,” an authentically twisted love story starring Michael Shannon and Imogen Poots, neatly avoids that mistake. It’s set in the bars, restaurants, and all-too-ordinary apartments of Las Vegas (as well as the ritzy side of Paris), and it coasts along on currents of anxiety and desire, but there’s nothing quaintly genre-ish about it. The ingenuity of “Frank & Lola” is that it takes noir situations and emotions — the lust, the dread, the voyeurism, the possessiveness, the lurch into violence — and says: Welcome to the stuff of an all too plausible modern relationship.

Michael Shannon, with his imposing height and glowering thick features that lend him a certain reptilian menace (he can look handsome one moment and suggest a suave version of Frankenstein’s monster the next), is not an actor we tend to associate with vulnerability. But in “Frank & Lola,” he plays a gifted but struggling star chef who’s a bit of a bruiser, with a core of insecurity he tries (and fails) to mask, and it’s that seed of self-doubt that makes the character intensely relatable. As the film opens, Frank is about to have sex, for the first time, with Lola, and the bluntness of the nudity — we’re confronted, in medias res, with the kind of explicit bedroom scene an inferior movie would have taken 20 minutes to work up to — plants us right in the thick of the characters’ intimacy.

Frank is sexy, gruff, saturnine, wrapped broodingly tight in his career, but also chivalrous to a fault — he’s divorced and doesn’t want to mess up again — and Lola, an aspiring fashion designer with pre-Raphaelite curls and a stare of adoration, seems a lucky find for him. Imogen Poots, with her goldfish eyes and high-beam sensual sincerity, is one of the most vibrant actresses working today — she’s a Greta Gerwig waiting to happen — and she gives Lola a sparkle of wholesome affection that feels bone-deep; we can’t believe the character is anything other than what she seems. But, in fact, she is, and her struggle to keep her life hidden intersects with Frank’s overdeveloped antennae of jealousy. When she’s approached at a bar by a business dude, played with impeccably hard-to-read “friendly” player cunning by Justin Long, she flirts just enough for him to offer help with her fashion career. It sets off Frank’s inner alarm, and in classic noir fashion the audience is right there with him. Is he sexually paranoid or seeing through Lola’s deceptions? Or could it be both?

This is the first feature written and directed by Matthew Ross, and he makes every scene fresh. The film’s images are lit with the luxe retro glow of Vegas and Paris, and the situations are fascinatingly grounded — in the pressure-cooker politics of Frank’s restaurant gigs, in the way Lola’s pathology grows out of how she fakes being a grownup. When Frank auditions to be the head chef of a new Vegas hotspot, he has to fly to France to do it, and his preparation of a meal (with a snuck-in truffle) is as suspenseful as the love story. But Frank is on a mission.

He learns that there’s another man in Lola’s life, a kinky aging married French playboy (played by the always terrific Michael Nyqvist), and the scenes in which these two get acquainted, circling each other like the predators they are, are the sign of a born filmmaker. Ross has the confidence to take a movie places you didn’t think it was going to go and to seize the audience’s fascination. In “Frank & Lola,” there is sex, lies, and forbidden images, but underneath it all there’s the eternal noir question that still haunts so many relationships: When a romance walks on the wild side, is that a sign that it’s real…or doomed?

“Frank & Lola” is really about Frank learning to conquer his doubt in the face of the woman he longs to be with. It’s a coincidence that Shannon is currently costarring (in a very different sort of role) as the taciturn police detective of “Nocturnal Animals,” because “Frank & Lola,” too, is a movie about nocturnal animals, and in many ways it’s as good as Tom Ford’s. It’s poised between reality and paranoid daydream, it’s about the dangerous ways that love can go wrong, and it does the thing that noir was invented to do: It sucks you in.

Film Review: 'Frank & Lola'

Reviewed on-line, November 29, 2016. MPAA Rating: Not rated. Running time: 87 MIN.

Production: A Parts & Labor, Killer Films, Lola Pictures, FullDawa Films, Great Point Media production. Producers: Jay Van Hoy, John Baker, Christopher Ramirez, Lars Knudsen. Executive producers: Robert Halmi Jr., David Hinojosa, Kevin Iwashina, Jim Reeve, Christine Vachon.

Crew: Director, screenplay: Matthew Ross. Camera (color, widescreen): Eric Koretz. Editors: Jennifer Lilly, Rebecca Rodriguez.

With: Michael Shannon, Imogen Poots, Michael Nyqvist, Justin Long, Stella Schnabel, Rosanna Arquette, Emmannuelle Devos.

More Film

  • 'All About Yves" Review: Feeble French

    Cannes Film Review: 'All About Yves'

    Benoit Forgeard’s dorky “All About Yves,” bizarrely chosen as the closing film of 2019’s Directors’ Fortnight selection in Cannes, is literally about an intelligent refrigerator that ascends to Eurovision fame as a rapper. Imagine Spike Jonze’s “Her” played for the cheapest of laughs, shorn of atmosphere, and absent all melancholic insight into our relationship with [...]

  • 'The Bare Necessity' Review: Offbeat, Charming

    Cannes Film Review: 'The Bare Necessity'

    A perfectly charmant way to, as the song has it, forget about your worries and your strife for 100 airy minutes, writer-director Erwan le Duc’s “The Bare Necessity” is a breezy little sweetheart of a debut, that threatens to give the rather ominous description “quirky French romantic comedy” a good name. In its dappled countryside [...]

  • Adam

    Cannes Film Review: 'Adam'

    With her debut feature “Adam,” Maryam Touzani allows her audience to sit back and relax comfortably into a beautifully made, character-driven little gem that knows when and how to touch all the right buttons. Taking the stories of two women, both frozen in existential stasis, and bringing them together in a predictable yet deeply satisfying [...]

  • 'To Live to Sing' Review: A

    Cannes Film Review: 'To Live to Sing'

    After his taut, impressive debut “Old Stone” which tracked with nightmarish relentlessness the high cost of compassion in modern urban China, Canadian-Chinese director Johnny Ma loosens his grip a little to deliver a softer, if not necessarily less pessimistic examination of the failing fortunes of a regional Sichuan Opera troupe. “To Live to Sing” is [...]

  • Hugh Jackman Sings Happy Birthday to

    Hugh Jackman Leads Massive One-Man Show Crowd in 'Happy Birthday' for Ian McKellen

    Hugh Jackman may have had to skip Ian McKellen’s birthday party to perform his one-man show, “The Man, The Music, The Show,” but that didn’t mean he couldn’t celebrate his “X-Men” co-star’s 80th. Jackman took a moment at the Manchester Arena Saturday to lead the sold-out audience — some 50,000 strong — in a rendition [...]

  • Netflix, Shmetflix: At Cannes 2019, the

    Netflix, Shmetflix: At Cannes 2019, the Movies Needed Every Inch of the Big Screen

    In the May 24 edition of The New York Times, there was a column by Timothy Egan, entitled “The Comeback of the Century: Why the Book Endures, Even in an Era of Disposable Digital Culture,” that celebrated those things that come between two hard covers as a larger phenomenon than mere nostalgia. The column keyed [...]

  • Aladdin

    'Aladdin' Dominates International Box Office With $121 Million

    Disney’s “Aladdin” is showing plenty of worldwide drawing power with $121 million overseas for the weekend, opening in first place in nearly all international markets. The reboot of the 1992 animated classic has received strong family attendance with a significant gain on Saturday and Sunday. China leads the way with an estimated $18.7 million for [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content