xXx: Return of Xander Cage
The last forty minutes of the movie do come together in a pretty diverting way.
"Frank and Lola" starts right in the middle of a frank sex scene between its leads, the fortysomething chef Frank (Michael Shannon) and the recent college graduate and would-be fashion designer Lola (Imogen Poots), and it continues in that vein, dropping us into the middle of moments, relationships and predicaments and expecting us to find our way through them. It's a terrific gambit, as well a welcome break from the preferred method of storytelling in romantic dramas, which is more along the lines of, "Hi, John, how is your brother, who I haven't seen in twelve years, and who betrayed me?" The problem is that, despite being played by two charismatic and more-than-capable actors, the title characters never click in the way they need to. They're too cool and vague for the volcanic story they enact.
Plot twists pile up, and a light-footed, psycho-sexual character study becomes something like a film noir revenge thriller. Frank goes to Paris, ostensibly to look into a potentially lucrative chef job set up by Lola's mother (Rosanna Arquette, overdoing the shallow self-regard and sexual voraciousness; when she tells Frank, "I can't wait to taste your food," I expected her to add a cartoon-y meow). But the job interview is a pretext to confront the would-be patron (played by Swedish actor Michael Nyqvist), the owner of the Las Vegas hotel where Frank would serve as head chef. This man raped Lola years ago. She credits him with jump-starting a pattern of self-destructive sexual behavior, which includes an impulsive one-night stand at a hotel with a guy she admits means nothing to her (Frank is devastated).
So far, so good—many a memorable seventies thriller has gotten by on less plot than "Frank and Lola" offers. But we're still left with the nagging feeling that debut writer/director Matthew Ross and his cast never quite got a handle on what draws these two to each other, what would make Lola disclose that devastating story to Frank after years of telling no one (including family), and what demons would compel Frank to fly across the Atlantic and come on like Charles Bronson in khakis.
When they're together, there's a relaxed, whispery quality to their interactions that's at odds with the mad foolish love so much of the plot seems to require. From a distance, theirs seems like a relationship that might have another six months left in it, the kind of brief but intense extended affair that they'll both fantasize about occasionally, years or even decades later, but without spending too much time wondering what might have been because they already know the answer. There's something missing here, something big, something that would have tied up all the film's finer qualities into a coherent whole. The most frustrating thing about realizing it is that it's impossible to know exactly what could have been done to create the spark this movie needed to combust.
Chaz Ebert highlights films with the potential to get us through the confusing political times of the Trump presidenc...
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
A review of Netflix's new series, Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events," which premieres January 13.
One of the most audacious American films from the 1960s is now available via the Criterion Collection.