Stream of the Week: FRANK & LOLA – Bad Girl or Troubled Girl?

Imogen Poots with Michael Shannon in FRANK & LOLA. Photo courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society.

Michael Shannon and Imogen Poots in FRANK & LOLA.
Photo courtesy of SFFILM.

The San Francisco International Film Festival is underway, so this week’s video pick comes from the program of last year’s festival.  The absorbing neo-noir romance Frank & Lola opens with a couple lovemaking for the first time – and right away there’s a glimmer that he’s more invested than she is. Soon we’re spirited from Vegas to Paris and back again in a deadly web of jealousy.

Lola (Imogen Poots) is young and beautiful, a lively and sparkly kind of girl. Frank (the great Michael Shannon) is older but “cool” – a talented chef. He is loyal and steadfast but given to possessiveness, and he says things like, “who’s the mook?”.

In a superb debut feature, writer director Matthew Ross has invented a Lola that we (and Frank) spend the entire movie trying to figure out. Imogen Poots is brilliant in her most complex role so far. She’s an unreliable girlfriend – but the roots of her unreliability are a mystery – is she Bad or Troubled? A character describes her with “She can be very convincing”, and that’s NOT a complement. Poots keeps us on edge throughout the film, right up to her stunning final monologue.

Shannon, of course, is superb, and the entire cast is exceptional. There’s a memorable turn by Emmanuelle Devos, the off-beat French beauty with the cruel mouth. Rosanna Arquette is wonderful, as is Michael Nyqvist from the Swedish Girl With the Dragon Tattoo movies. I especially liked Justin Long as Keith Winkleman (is he a namedropping ass or something more?).

Frank & Lola has more than its share of food porn and, as befits a neo-noir, lots of depravity. But, at its heart, it’s a romance. Is Lola a Bad Girl or a Troubled Girl? If she’s bad, then love ain’t gonna prevail. But if she’s damaged, can love survive THAT either? We’re lucky enough to go along for the ride.

I saw Frank & Lola in May 2016 at the San Francisco International Film Festival. I liked it more than most and put it on my Best Movies of 2016. After a brief and tiny theatrical release in December which did not reach the Bay Area, Frank & Lola is now available to stream on Amazon Instant, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube and Google Play.

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