They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Clearly screenwriters believe that the way to a cinema goer’s heart (and wallet) may be through the stomach too. In the past few years we’ve had a gluttony(!) of films where food, more specifically, those who cook it, chefs, have been the main protagonist. Chef, The Hundred Foot Journey, Ratatouille, Burnt, Julie and Julia and No Reservations have all centred around the life and dramas of cooks. Michael Shannon is the latest actor to don an apron and sharpen his kitchen knives – in this case for possible nefarious purposes in Frank and Lola, which is out on DVD now.
He plays Frank, a chef in Las Vegas who trained in Paris and dreams of opening his own restaurant while grumpily serving up exquisite meals for dinner parties held by demanding wealthy private clients.
However, his culinary skills begin to play second fiddle to his emotions when he meets and quickly falls in love with Lola (Imogen Poots – Green Room), after saying he doesn’t easily fall in love. Lola is a troubled young woman who is clearly hiding something beneath the artsy fashion designer persona Frank first sees. When she cheats on Frank in an anonymous hotel room on the Vega strip and explains it as being the result of an abusive experience when much younger, Frank becomes embroiled in her past as well as intense emotions he has hitherto not revealed. Is Lola a glib liar messing with Frank’s head or is the Frenchman from her past playing him and her? Whether it’s the golds of Vegas or the deeps reds of Paris, the film is beautifully shot and lit. The glamour and shine of the surroundings enveloping the glamorous, wealthy people who inhabit them. But the passions of these people are dark and the film wears it’s noir palette well too.
Frank and Lola is Matthew Ross’ first feature as writer and director and it took him the best part of a decade to get it made, moving the setting from New York to the glitzier Vegas at the request of producers. The change works well enough. The town and subject matter complement each other black and gold tend to do. The film is ultimately about male jealousy, the betrayal within love and the primeval desire for revenge which can overtake the most mild mannered once passion is involved.
As a director, Ross makes a more assured debut than as a writer. While he puts in enough twists and turns to keep you guessing what might happen next, the characters aren’t compelling enough to care a great deal about. Both Shannon and Poots do their best to imbue Frank and Lola with the believability that a film like this, based around a relationship, needs and although the writing doesn’t always help them, they keep the story going with their efforts.
Frank and Lola is out now on DVD and digital download.
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David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television