Frank & Lola
Frank & Lola edges agonisingly close towards the realm of satisfying cinema. Unfortunately, as it is, Matthew Ross’ story of troubled love never quite gets there.
Frank & Lola revolves around the gradual evaporation of a couple’s honeymoon period, paving the way for resentment, suspicion and an assortment of audacious maneuvers in the name of love. On paper, the film sounds great. However, any intrigue in the finer details is hindered by a lack of believability - in Frank, Lola and their relationship. Given the fact that their relationship is ultimately all the film is about, it’s somewhat of a chore to get through.
Michael Shannon and Imogen Poots both contribute serviceable enough performances throughout, as Frank and Lola respectively, but struggle to save the film from an absurdly lazy first act. Essentially, there’s no effort expended to make the audience invest in their union. There’s no reason to care. Frank and Lola’s chemistry is not obvious, bordering on non-existent. They do not seem particularly happy together. There’s no apparent rhyme or reason for this relationship. The problem with that is, there’s nothing at stake for the audience when the relationship begins to sour and, in turn, nothing at stake when Frank entertains some unorthodox behaviours in response. This issue is probably best attributed to the writing, more than the performances. Shannon and Poots are capable but aren’t given anything of any substance to do. They have an uphill slog to convince us that there’s drama in something that never had stakes to begin with.
Frank & Lola is a prime example of one misstep ruining an entire film. The relationship is central to every single event in the story. Without the groundwork to make it believable, the film feels bland, inching along at a snail's’ pace. To make matters worse, Frank and Lola, as well as the peripheral characters are, in their own ways, unlikeable and learn absolutely nothing. Rare flashes of humor from Michael Shannon account for some highlights, but even Shannon’s performance is ultimately undermined by poor writing. For so much of the film, he portrays a stern, simmering, powder-keg-tempered chef, but he’s also outed as a complete chump more than once.
Frank and Lola has been touted as “passionate”, “sexy” and “suspenseful”, but the film fails to check even one of those boxes. The first half hour of the film is enough to identify how little there is to hang onto. Even if you make it to the end, don’t expect a satisfying resolution. It’s tough to care about the characters at the beginning and there’s little reason to care by the time the credits roll.
BY NICK MASON