Few actors of this generation have the multifaceted talents that can compete with Michael Shannon. The wild-eyed actor is capable of dark, unsettling menace just as well as he can invoke heartbreaking empathy. His involvement in any movie warrants interest on its own because you just never know what this great actor will bring to the table. That’s certainly the case with Frank & Lola, the film from writer-director Matthew Ross which sees Shannon starring opposite Imogen Poots in a dark, twisted tale of love and betrayal. While certainly not Shannon’s best work of 2016, Frank & Lola is still a fascinating portrait of jealousy and an engaging film for the most part.
Shannon stars as Frank, a chef that has worked in various restaurants throughout Las Vegas. Frank has just fallen head over heels for Lola (Poots) and the two quickly move from dating to living together. As quickly as Frank has fallen for Lola the seeds of jealousy are planted and begin to blossom. It starts at first when Frank sees Lola taking with Keith (Justin Long), a well-to-do entrepreneur around Vegas with connections that could secure employment for Lola. One night, a tearful Lola confesses an act of infidelity and that sends Frank into the darkest aspects of jealousy, a mounting distrust that only grows. But Lola claims that the shaky mental state that drove her towards cheating was the result of the lingering aftereffects of a sexual assault perpetrated by Alan (Michael Nyqvist), an author in Paris that sometimes spends time with Lola’s mother (Rosanna Arquette). When Frank travels to Paris for work, he seeks out Alan and his confrontation reveals all sorts of secrets that he never wanted to know and further plunges Frank into the depths of darkness.
The chemistry between Michael Shannon and Imogen Poots is the heart and soul of Frank & Lola. There’s a really sexy energy that the two actors share when they occupy the screen together. Poots brings an alluring sense of mystery to Lola, a secret past of a rough life that seeps through her sexy stare. Conversely, Shannon brings an earnestness to Frank that he can convey without uttering a single word. You can see in his eyes the infatuation with Lola just as well as you can see when the rage and jealousy starts to bubble under the surface. It’s not an extremely showy performance, but one that does everything that the story requires.
Writer-director Matthew Ross’ film quickly establishes the spark that connects its eponymous characters and wastes little time in unraveling the relationship that drives the film. However, it’s as the film moves towards escalation that Frank & Lola loses a lot of steam. Once the film transports its action to Paris it seems that the movie loses its ebb and flow. The story takes darker and darker turns but the human element that drove so much of the first half evaporates. Ross really seems to be trying to raise the stakes of the story to diminished returns in the film’s latter half, leaving a lot of setup and little punch to what should be a much more powerful conclusion.
Even when Frank & Lola stumbles, the film is still quite watchable because of its two great leads. Imogen Poots and Michael Shannon electrify the screen together and craft a relationship that is intense and troubled. Frank & Lola is at its weakest when it delves deep into the darkness of its story, taking a turn that escalates the story at the cost of its human drama. Even when it falters, Frank & Lola is captivating when Shannon and Poots share the screen, and luckily that’s most of the movie.
Frank & Lola
Driven by the electric chemistry of Imogen Poots and Michael Shannon, Frank & Lola is the story relationship that delves deep into jealousy but stumbles when it tries to make its story a bit too dark.