CAST: Isabelle Huppert, Greg Kinnear, Marisa Tomei, Jérémie Renier, Brendan Gleeson, Vinette Robinson, Ariyon Bakare, Pascal Greggory, Carloto Cotta, Sennia Nanua
RUNNING TIME: 98 mins
BASICALLY…: Frankie (Huppert), a dying French actress, gathers her family for a final holiday in Portugal…
NOW FOR THE REVIEW…
There is honestly very little to say about Frankie, the latest film from filmmaker Ira Sachs, because the movie gives me virtually nothing to talk about.
Sachs has won critical praise over the years with films like Love Is Strange and Little Men, which are strong emotional pieces in and of themselves, but Frankie is by far his biggest misfire to date, containing almost zero plot, even fewer stakes, characters not even worth caring about, and utterly wasteful turns by some excellent character actors who, like the filmmaker, seem absolutely lost and confused about what they’re trying to do.
The very basic outline of the film is that a famous French actress named Frankie (Isabelle Huppert) is holidaying at a sunny Portugal getaway, and has invited several of her family members – husbands past and present (Pascal Greggory and Brendan Gleeson respectively), her son Paul (Jérémie Renier), her step-daughter Sylvia (Vinette Robinson) along with her own miserable family – and even her close make-up friend Ilene (Marisa Tomei), who herself has brought along her ambitious boyfriend Gary (Greg Kinnear). Frankie has brought them all together because, as we eventually find out, she is dying from cancer and wants to spend one final holiday with the people closest to her.
Except, this isn’t really a movie about these people all coming together for this one purpose. Instead, it’s mostly just a collection of sluggish vignettes following these various characters over the course of one simple day across this Portuguese landscape; occasionally, they bump into each other and strike up brief conversations before moving on, but the only time we ever really get a sense that this is supposed to be a tight-knit family unit is in the very final shot of the film. Other than that, there is barely a thread connecting all of these uninteresting, dull people whose lives are far too privileged to get invested in (a moment of panic for these people involves an expensive piece of jewellery being thrown into the bushes, and it is never brought up again, as though to them such a pricey item apparently isn’t worth that much to them), all against the impossibly beautiful Portugal backdrop which comes across as a vain and empty tourism ad for the country.
So little happens in this movie that all you can think about are the numerous other ways in which you could be spending your time, and that shouldn’t be something you’re thinking about when you’re watching something made by an acclaimed filmmaker like Ira Sachs, or starring great actors like Isabelle Huppert, Brendan Gleeson and Greg Kinnear. This is a movie where the biggest conflict, aside from said jewellery incident, is whether or not Kinnear’s character is going to press forward with his own directorial feature after working as a second unit director on a Star Wars movie, and it’s seriously nowhere near as exciting as it sounds. Beyond that, there are numerous and repetitive walk-and-talk scenes between characters where nothing interesting is being said, nor do many of the things they’re talking about have some kind of proper resolution; a plot thread that goes absolutely nowhere is of Frankie wanting to set her grown son up with Marisa Tomei’s character, but that is very quickly dropped in favour of yet another scene of characters wandering aimlessly through the woods or along hillside paths.
It seems that Sachs was aiming for something along the lines of Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy or even an Éric Rohmer film, but more things happened in those movies, and they had characters who you could at least identify with. By giving the audience little reason to care about anything and anyone, Frankie very quickly becomes punishingly boring to sit through, something which not even the sunny landscapes can brighten up. It has very little points to make other than placing acclaimed character actors in a gorgeous part of the world and then doing absolutely nothing with any of those elements, and just feels like a complete waste of both talent and time, for both the audience and the people involved in making it. The actors certainly do what they can here, but nobody in this ensemble cast truly stands out, nor do they seem entirely sure as to why they’re even there in the first place.
Despite all the talent, it’s disappointingly impossible to recommend, because unless you have a really strong appetite for inconsequential slice-of-life movies you’re honestly going to feel very bored throughout most of it, and that your precious time is being wasted on something which doesn’t feel like it was made for anyone in particular.
SO, TO SUM UP…
Frankie is a dreadfully dull waste of talent and time, which gives the impressive ensemble cast virtually nothing to do other than wander about Portugal while doing nothing and saying very uninteresting things, resulting in a rare misfire from acclaimed filmmaker Ira Sachs.