Frank & Lola
A psychosexual noir love story, set in Las Vegas and Paris, about love, obsession, sex, betrayal, revenge and, ultimately, the search for redemption.
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★★★★½ review by Dawson Joyce on Letterboxd
An intense, sexually charged, and purely psychological tale of desire, jealousy, and obsession, Frank & Lola features superb lead turns from Michael Shannon and Imogen Poots and will leave you eagerly awaiting what writer and director Matthew Ross will have to offer next.
★★★★ review by ScreeningNotes on Letterboxd
Sundance 2016: #6
Sexy, luscious, vibrant, dark, tense; Frank & Lola is a classically melodramatic noir thriller about a chef who gets involved with a woman who turns his life upside down.
Maybe it's the excitement of seeing this in the busy festival atmosphere, or maybe it's my love of film noir and how well this fits that mold (and it really does; all the complaints I've read about it are things I understand because "that's film noir"—I'm still kicking myself for chickening out and not asking Matthew M. Ross about his noir influences), but I really loved this. It's not something that will change the way you look at the world or anything transcendent like that, and I can see myself looking back at this in a year or so and possibly wondering what I was thinking, but even writing this over 24 hours after watching it I'm still high on how much fun it was.
It's all about how complicated questions of agency and trauma are and how ambiguous and indecisive (or undecidable) our ideas about identity and meaning are. Imogen Poots' femme fatale is at the heart of the film, and all of the drama revolves around the question of her complicity in actions I won't ruin for folks who haven't seen this yet. Michael Shannon goes back and forth between believing her, hating her, loving her; but he's always a step behind. Poots is the bearer of truth, but she doesn't have access to it; she's always kept at a distance from her own desire. All of this comes together to create a profound sense of unease about the fundamental instability of the world.
"We're both rotten."
"Only you're a little more rotten."
On top of this, the film is simply gorgeous. It was shot by relative newcomer Eric Koretz (only his third feature film, and the first of this size), and he uses the neon lights of the city to eclipse the actors and reflect the characters' psychological deadlocks and emotional distance from themselves in the way the city looms over them and casts them in pitch-black silhouettes. Michael Shannon plays strong and somewhat imposing on the surface but fragile and insecure underneath (boy howdy I need to see more of his work) and Imogen Poots plays fractured and unstable without becoming either powerless or diminutive (If anything, Shannon is more helpless by the end than she is).
I can't imagine this being a big favorite out of Sundance since it's certainly heightened in both its style and characters, and it uses issues of sexual assault in a way that may make some viewers uncomfortable (for me it's an inseparable part of her identity and the film's questions about agency and even about the nature of film noir as a genre, but it's certainly not a simple subject), but it really worked for me. It's probably closer to something like Green Room in that I enjoyed it a lot on a personal level but would have trouble recommending to a broad audience, but if what I've described here sounds like it's up your alley then definitely keep your eyes open for Frank & Lola.
★★★½ review by Jacob Knight on Letterboxd
An odd mixture of uncomfortable relationship drama focused on male jealousy and psychosexual musings on desire and control, it'd all fall apart if Michael Shannon weren't so utterly mesmerizing. Here he's a knife-carrying ball of seething inadequacy, ready to turn from the cutting board and start carving up human bodies. As far as first films go, this one's pretty impressive, feeling like Abel Ferrara's CLOSER.
★★★½ review by Waldo on Letterboxd
An intense Las Vegas romance between a chef and fashion designer with a troubled past. Michael Shannon is Frank and you know this romance is gonna be a little dangerous with him involved. Imogen Poots is Lola and she's a little complicated. It's a psychosexual drama, steamy erotic thriller? Something like that. It's romantic, with a touch of a nervous edge.
★★★½ review by Jason on Letterboxd
Frank & Lola is a slyly cool neo-noirish drama starring the always excellent Michael Shannon and Imogen Poots. Frank is a chef in his early forties and Lola is a budding fashion designer in her mid twenties. Why are they a couple? I don't know. Their relationship is dysfunctional and toxic as Frank is very jealous and paranoid that Lola is going to cheat on him with a dude at her new job.
Both of the main characters aren't particularly likeable and there is a toxicity to their relationship which bleeds into the film itself and yet I still ended up liking it and wanting them to be together in the end even though they are almost certainly not right for each other.
It's a beautifully shot film with some gorgeous and haunting nighttime cinematography. I especially loved the final shot of the film. It is the feature debut of director Matthew Ross who had previously made several short films over a couple of decades. It's not a perfect film and there are definitely holes you can poke in it, but for its trim running time of 88 minutes it is a tantalising and intriguing exercise in moodiness.
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