Frankie is like a postcard – the picture is beautiful, but it hardly has any substance attached to it.

The scenery in Frankie is of Sintra, Portugal, and it’s breathtaking.  I actually didn’t mind the film stalling on its story to showcase wide shots of the landscape for audiences to eat up.  Unfortunately, these locations become clouded with actors.  A well-cast ensemble, mind you, but they all appear to have gotten the same notes from director Ira Sachs: “Stand on your mark, and deliver your lines.”

I liked Sachs’ romantic drama Love Is Strange, but a marginally vague last act left a sour aftertaste.  With Frankie, the filmmaker doubles down on the ambiguity by supplying empty characterizations that are supposed to fill out over the course of the movie.  Sachs’ direction seems withdrawn as well, as if he’s certain that his cast’s energy and camaraderie will drive this story about a conflicted, foreboding family reunion.  Ira Sachs does a lot of gambling with Frankie, and most of it doesn’t pan out.

Frankie is dialogue-heavy, which is fine.  But, because some script requirements have gone unaccounted for, there’s no heart to these heart-to-hearts.  The film isn’t one-note;  the script (written by Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias) does offer audiences different levels of intimacy.  However, the weight of each conversation never truly sets in.  The same flaw reoccurs during a fluffier romantic subplot involving the youngest daughter of the family and a local boy – everything about it seems so broadly “cute”.

There may be some appeal here for movie goers drawn in by the cast (Isabelle Huppert, Jérémie Renier, Brendan Gleeson, Marisa Tomei, Greg Kinnear).  But for me, watching Frankie was like taking a long vacation and occasionally running into people you sat near on the flight over.


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