Frank & Lola review – Michael Shannon sizzles in twisted romance

Matthew M Ross’s directorial debut about a Los Angeles chef and his mysterious girlfriend with a sordid past is surprising and compulsively watchable

Michael Shannon’s coiled intensity has been put to menacingly effective use playing villainous types in Man of Steel and, most recently, 99 Homes. But Matthew M Ross’s seductive first feature, Frank & Lola, exploits Shannon’s sex appeal too.

Ross opens his noir romance boldly with a heated scene between the titular lovers, who just met that night. “Come on, just fuck me,” Lola (Imogen Poots) pleads, bored with the foreplay. A torrid scene ensues.

The opening sets the tone: dark and sexy. Frank & Lola is always one step ahead of its audience, to deliver a haunting examination of male obsession and domination, that also serves as a weird sort of love story.

Frank is a talented and driven chef working in Las Vegas whose life is thrown into a tailspin after he meets and falls passionately in love with Lola, an aspiring fashion designer. Ross briefly documents their courtship, but is more interested in what transpires after a seemingly happy couple gets complacent.

When Lola is offered a promising job that could greatly advance her career, Frank can’t help but grow suspicious of her new employer (Justin Long). His jealousy is further intensified when Lola comes home late one night, tearfully confessing that she cheated on him, but that it meant nothing. In an effort to explain her actions, Lola confesses to Frank that a former troubled sexual encounter between her and a rich Frenchman (Swedish actor Michael Nyqvist) damaged her, causing her to behave self-destructively

When Frank is flown to Paris for a job interview, he uses the opportunity to track down the man from Lola’s past in search of answers and revenge. Needless to say, it turns out not to be one of his better ideas.

For a directorial debut, Ross’s film is admirably odd and hard to pin down. What first starts as a meet-cute love story slowly morphs into a globe-trotting thriller, only to settle down into something altogether more bizarre and disturbing. The final stretch feels a bit undercooked considering the strength of what’s come before, but by then the film has already weaved its hazy spell.

Shannon is superb, investing Frank with a surprising amount of tenderness even as he grows increasingly irate with Lola and her profusion of untruths. He’s an alluring and dangerous lead, perfectly paired with Poots, who more than holds her own to finally deliver on all the promise she’s shown in films less worthy of her talents.


Nigel M Smith in Park City, Utah

The GuardianTramp

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