Film Review: “Frank & Lola” Shows That Lust Can Be Toxic

Synopsis: Set in Las Vegas and Paris, Frank & Lola is a psychosexual noir thriller about love and sex, obsession and betrayal, revenge and redemption. Matthew Ross’s debut feature stars Michael Shannon as Frank, an up-and-coming chef, and Imogen Poots as Lola, an aspiring fashion designer. Frank and Lola meet and soon fall hard and fast for one another. Their affair is sudden, passionate, and seems to be everything Frank has always wanted. But their idyllic love proves to be short-lived when a man from Lola’s murky past turns up on the scene, and pushes Frank into a downward spiral of jealousy, and to the brink of self-destruction.

Was it love or was it lust? That is the question! Matthew Ross’s Frank & Lola is a nosedive into a scintillatingly toxic relationship. We have all witnessed “the couple” that is both infuriated and endeared by the other’s dramatic, emotional baggage. Yet, through sultrily dark cinematography and a sizzling soundtrack by Laz Day, the film, which is described as a psychosexual noir thriller about love and sex, shows that a “thriller” relationship comes from couple’s reactions not situations. 

Although described as a thriller, it is not the plot of Frank & Lola that drives it “edge” but its characters. Michael Shannon as Frank captures the quiet, brewing storm of jealousy, lust, wrathfulness, and insecurity that bubbles underneath the surface of an “accomplished” man. Frank is a chef, whose culinary talents have given hime experiences and accolades for several tales, but he only wishes to write his story with Lola. Imogen Poots gives Lola a subtle sexiness. Her presence simmers with internal passion for Frank, but she has had, unfortunately, a torrid, sexual history that has marked her relationship with men and her mother (played briefly but fabulously by Rosanna Arquette). Shannon and Poots have chemistry that drips off the screen, and solidifies a very real connection with audiences. Such strong chemistry helps the racy sex scenes to ooze with genuinely-felt passion. It is clear throughout the film that both characters want each other, but do they really need or love each other? 

Frank & Lola is such a fascinating microscope into sex because it reveals the darkness of using your body as a weapon against others. From Lola’s personal, tragic experiences to hers and Frank’s own sexualized manipulations/ machinations, I was left wondering whether the bold chemistry these characters shared between each other was heartfelt. Can you love someone you play games with? This question has consistently rocked relationships, particularly those of the “dramatic” couples I mentioned above. When you toy with someone’s spirit by toying with their body and mind, how can you then say you love them and wish to be their partner? It is these type of questions that Frank & Lola approaches with a subtle candor that is not “preachy” or aimed to teach you a moral lesson. No one is running through the screen or will be swiveling through viewers to yell, “These two do not belong together!”. Yet, it will be a quiet challenge for viewers that will leave them enthralled by the film and also open to a plethora of discussion. 
The best films are not the ones that make you talk, but the ones that make you think, especially beyond yourself. Frank & Lola makes you think! Even when the couple is at its “strongest”, there is a sense of unease in their relationship and trust for each other, which makes the film riveting to watch. It is like a psycho-analytical diagram into the thoughts and emotional reactions that lead to relationship choices: from conception to deception. Again, although this film is marketed as a thriller, do not expect shocking plot twists, which is why Frank & Lola is such an adrenaline rush. The true thrills come from trying to decipher if the “good times” between Frank & Lola are good and healthy enough for this couple to claim their relationship is love. Frank & Lola comes out In Theatres  on December 9.
RT: 88 minutes