Frank and Lola are a newish, happy couple. He’s older, takes care of her. They’re lovey-dovey, meeting parents and wondering about saying I love you. Until.
Until something prompts Lola (Imogen Poots) to confess that she was raped by her mother’s ex-boyfriend not long before meeting him. Frank (Michael Shannon) is already feeling jealous, and now he’s got this black stain to focus on. If only he could have protected her – would things be different between them? Better?
Then Lola’s new boss (Justin Long) drops an opportunity in his lap: an interview in Paris, which is conveniently where rapey ex-boyfriend (Michael Nyquist) lives. Two birds, one stone? The movie is billed as a “psychosexual noir love story” but all you had to tell me is “Michael Shannon.” That man makes some damn interesting choices and I’ll always go along for the ride.
The film has obvious themes of love, obsession, sex, betrayal, revenge: all the ingredients for a psychosexual noir love story, I suppose. Tonally, it’s very dark. Shannon is so gravelly, so good at pained expressions, allows us to wear Frank’s obsession like a second skin so that it feels dirty and urgently real. He brings intensity and suspense to a movie that is otherwise only second-rate. Writer-director Matthew M. Ross has something to say about the male psyche, but perhaps lacks the maturity to give Frank the inner life that would truly express it. He does, however, have an eye for the seediness of life, and the depravity of people. But with each twist in the plot, the emotional investment is diluted.
Setting the film in both Paris and Vegas gives an authentic flavour to the proceedings. Vegas lends itself to broken characters and a certain loneliness amid busy-ness. Watching Frank And Lola is an exercise in lie-detecting: do you think you’ll pass?