Some may say otherwise, but there’s hardly a more attractive and effective poster for any movie being released this year than the one for Frank & Lola, the new noir-soaked romance starring Michael Shannon and Imogen Poots. The poster features the two acclaimed actors looking dreamily at one another with such captivating and loving looks in a pose that just oozes romance. The poster is so sleek and shiny, echoing the kind of romantic tales audiences like to get lost in. It’s also the complete and total opposite of what Frank & Lola really is.
Shannon and Poots star as the titular couple here. Frank is a chef hoping to reclaim lost potential and open up his own restaurant in Las Vegas, while Lola is an aspiring fashion designer who has just been offered a job opportunity most would kill for. Although they love each other greatly, their romance is one filled with equal parts passion and darkness. Things come to a head when a figure from Lola’s past (Michael Nyqvist) brings to light a number of secrets which erupt in a sea of of eroticism and violence.
There’s no mistaking Frank & Lola as a genuinely deep love story. As a result, the film exists as an unwavering character piece about a pair of lovers whose complex relationship with love will almost certainly be their undoing. There is something so explosive about these two people who are drawn to each other but know far better than to be in this relationship due to their own damaged selves. Even if the audience can’t always root for Frank and Lola’s relationship, there’s an element to the love they share which makes them so compulsively watchable because of the darkness their love conveys even in scenes of tranquility. While this may sound all too grim for a cinematic representation of romance, Frank & Lola is nothing if not incredibly realistic in the way it captures the exciting and oftentimes consuming state of being in love. Ultimately the film speaks to the question of truly wanting to trust the person you are in love with and that very something that keeps you from fully being able to.
Frank & Lola can squarely be put into the category of a sub-genre of film which could only be called “modern noir,” which retains the features of the dark style of filmmaking from the ’40s, but takes them beyond the trappings of the way neo-noir paid tribute in the ’80s and ’90s. The film has an unmistakable noir stain to it, but maintains a level of rawness which proves essential in illustrating the intensity of the relationship. The biggest way in which Frank & Lola manages this is by not wasting a great amount of time explaining much of anything regarding plot. Instead, the film just quietly jumps right into its characters’ lives in an extremely refreshing way. Where the somewhat fragmented aspects of the plot would normally make things frustrating, here they make things all the more interesting in the way they symbolize the unpredictability and fragile state of Frank and Lola’s relationship. The romance is put to the side only slightly when the plot’s thriller aspects show up. However, such scenes also serve the story in the way they actually speak to the maddening passion such a relationship causes.
A couple of colorful side characters pop up throughout the course of Frank & Lola, including Justin Long, who is great as the latter’s rich boss, and Rosanna Arquette, who manages to outshine the two impeccable leads in her one scene as Lola’s aging bombshell mother. Speaking of the two leads, the pair has never found a better showcase which shows both of them at their best. For far too long now, both Shannon and Poots have remained on the sidelines of other films, stealing scenes in spectacular ways. Frank & Lola is their show, and everyone stands back and lets them amaze. Frank plays to all of Shannon’s strengths as an actor, especially when he has to keep his character a rage-filled, yet contained figure, while Poots proves herself the appropriate well that Lola needs to be in order to register as a complex woman she is.
With Frank & Lola, writer/director Matthew Ross has made a truly great piece of work. The film’s heightened look is incredibly polished by indie film standards, making the proceedings come off as somewhat perversely magical, which is wonderfully at odds with the intensity of the plot. Moreover, great cinematography and deft editing make the entire experience incredibly beautiful while avoiding the sort of pretentiousness which usually accompanies such efforts. Featuring shades of Bret Easton Ellis, Charles Bukowski, and Raymond Carver, Frank & Lola proves an enthralling and intoxicating love story from its upfront beginning to and ending which proves a mix of melancholy and hope.