Ira Sachs is one of my favorite directors and his films ave always touched me, from ‘Love is Strange,’ to ‘Keep The Lights On’ to ‘Little Men.’ I wish I could say the same for ‘Frankie,’ his latest film. I had high hopes for it, for it stars Isabelle Hupert in the title role (Does she only make films with one word name titles ? From Elle to Greta and now Frankie) Unfortunately, though, ‘Frankie’ is too subtle for me, and I am the queen of subtle. Jupert plays a movie star named Françoise Crémont who assembles her family in picturesque Sintra, Portugal. ‘Frankie; as she is called, is dying from cancer, and she is trying to orchestrate her family’s lives after she passes. This situation, of course, lends to a whole range of emotions among her family members, as they deal with their own personal struggles. The ensemble cast around her is great, and I particularly liked Marisa Tomei as a woman unaware that she is being match-made by Frankie for her son. There’s not much drama in here – the situations are sparse and under-nuanced, and there were far too many characters for the audience to connect with except for Hupert’s Frankie. I appreciated Sach’s genteel style, I just wish there were more substance.
‘Greta’ is such a hot mess of a movie (my first reaction was – Neil Jordan directed this?) that you can’t help but laugh. The audience I was watching this with started howling with laughter with a lot of its implausible plot points. But you cannot help but like it – kind of , sort of. Isabelle Hupert gives a campy performance that a lot of fabulous people will reference in years to come, and Chloe Grace Moretz gives a committed performance that you have to admire for its tenacity. (Maika Monroe playing her best friend/roommate deserves a shout out as well) I don’t know if anyone at this point can take the film seriously, and if going with that frame of mind, then I guess some enjoyment can be had.
After watching ‘Elle,’ the two friends I went with both said ‘I hated that movie!’ And who could blame them? The movie is a hot mess – it toggles from rape mystery to melodrama to comedy all in the same scene, not one of the characters are likable, and the movie is slow and meandering. Elle, the main character played by Isabelle Hupert, is on every scene and on nearly each one she is doing something rude, unpleasant, or baffling.
But maybe that is why I had a small fondness for the character, as I think about the film now. You have to give plus points for braveness to Hupert for being so defiantly Elle – you can see a total character there so vividly you can smell her perfume (I bet it’s a complicated Guerlain) Hupert doesn’t care to ‘humanize’ the character so the audience can identify and sympathize. She is more concerned about making the character real. Perhaps that is why this performance is resonating with critics – so far it has won for her the New York Film Critics Association, and the Gotham Independent Film Awards. Clearly she is doing something right.
But perhaps most people won’t be able to get past the clunky storytelling, muddled direction, and the emotional excesses here. I could shorten the movie by twenty minutes and would get the same effect. Bottom line – I didn’t hate the movie, but at the same time won’t be lining up to see it again. I appreciate Hupert’s performance who is big and bombastic here (and yes, she can do subtle like in ‘Things To Come.’ my thoughts here . ) and for sure, this film is never boring. I may even recommend it.