Wednesday, November 6, 2019

film review: Frankie

Directed by Ira Sachs
Written by Ira Sachs & Mauricio Zacharias

ChinoKino score: D

Review by Allan Tong

Frankie is a French drama that is supposed to center on a movie star, Frankie (Isabelle Huppert), who reveals a life crisis to friends and family in the span of a day. This includes her husbands, current (Brendan Gleeson) and past (Pascal Greggory), her spoiled adult son (Jeremie Renier) and stepdaughter (Vinette Robinson). Rather than entwine hers, their storylines overtake Frankie's and the film loses its unifying force right off the bat. Frankie lacks focus. Characters come and go, often quarreling with another, while individual scenes lack emotion or impact. Frankie's friend and hairdresser Ilene (Marisa Tomei) journeys from New York to Portugal, where the film takes place, with Frankie's hope that she will spark with her son. Instead, Ilene journeys with boyfriend, Gary (Greg Kinnear), who is working on the latest Star Wars shoot nearby. In fact, this storyline is the most fleshed-out, as the couple grapple with their future together. Tomei and Kinnear are the only characters in Frankie who feel real, and Tomei steals the show.

Unfortunately, Huppert--one of the world's finest actresses--feels out of place in her own movie. The directing is amateurish. Many scenes are shot in a static establishing shot without music. The camera never moves and, more annoyingly, often captures the back of one of the two characters within scenes so we can't see their reactions or emotions, further distancing the audience. And this is a talkative film. Unfortunately, that dialogue fails to advance scenes and, in a wider sense, the movie.

The overall effect is meh.

When Frankie reveals her Big Crisis to friend Ilene that moment falls flat. We should feel shocked. Instead, the reveal feels like it came from another movie. There is zero foreshadowing in the movie and not enough character development of Frankie for the audience to invest in her welfare.

The only winner in Frankie is Sintra, a gorgeous Portuguese town near the ocean. Frankie shows off Sintra's lush forests, seductive hillsides and shimmering beaches.

Aside from that, Frankie feels like a rough assembly based on a first-draft script that's imitating Woody Allen but lacking wit, story turns or character depth. A huge disappointment.

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