Saturday 11 January 2020

Movie Review: Frank And Lola (2016)

A romantic drama, Frank And Lola delves into issues of deep-rooted jealousy, sexual adventurism and the damage of the past catching up with the present.

In Las Vegas, struggling chef Frank Reilly (Michael Shannon) and aspiring fashion designer Lola (Imogen Poots) are involved in a passionate relationship. He has issues of trust, and resents her finding a job at the fashion incubator house owned by the charismatic and rich Keith Winkleman (Justin Long).

Lola confesses to a one night stand, and also reveals a troubled past involving being raped in Paris by a man named Alan. Frank travels to Paris to compete for a new restaurant chef position, and takes the opportunity to track down Alan (Michael Nyqvist). He discovers an unexpectedly complex web of sexual and emotional relationships.

A dark and often disconcerting drama, Frank And Lola confidently strides into the psyche of a disturbed couple. Writer and director Matthew Ross is interested in disrupting conventions and challenging expectations. As Lola and Frank repeatedly disappoint and lie to each other, the character reactions are exceptionally unexpected. An undercurrent of self-hate and low self-esteem permeates the film, which often means a flickering love, no matter how imperfect, is the best available option.

And yet this is a difficult film to enjoy, due to the absence of any notionally likeable or even capable characters. Lola and Frank are not shy about admitting their deep-seated faults, and they are unreliable, mean and prone to atrocious misjudgments. The layered deceptions become tiresome, and eventually almost nothing said can be trusted, the film teetering on a decrepit foundation. The origins and essence of the love between Frank and Lola, fundamental to carry them through the severe turbulence, are missing.

Ross uses quick scene transitions, sleek settings and plenty of night-time filming with intense lighting to explore themes of control, possession and barely contained envy. Frank is older than Lola, and while the sexual chemistry between them is strong, he has trouble tolerating any of her interactions with other men. Her new boss Keith is the target of his initial wrath, but Alan emerges from the past as a formidable opponent. And Frank finds much more than he bargained for once he tracks Alan down, an awakening to how intense and gripping a twisted love can be, fuelled by a whole different relationship paradigm.

Michael Shannon and Imogen Poots are suitably intense and often anguished, hinting at lives struggling to rise above years of unmet expectations and self-destructive behaviour. Michael Nyqvist adds a dash of continental smarm as a man indulging his fantasies but still consumed by a powerful passion. In Frank And Lola commitment comes in different guises, all of them complex.

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