Movie Review: “Frankie”

Frankie

Frankie – a film review by Gary Chew

Ira Sach’s Frankie is a new film that, while weakly appealing to a wide swath of age groups, hardly offers anything to anyone — whatever their age. It tells the story about a small assemblage of an extended family, somewhat in disarray, that spends one terribly uneventful day of its vacation around and in the very quaint village of Sintra, Portugal. (No, that’s not Sinatra.)

You could say that Frankie (Isabelle Hupert) is the matriarch. She’s the one who’s called the play for down time along the Mediterranean. Since the fictitious Fran çoise Cr émont (AKA Frankie), just like Isabelle Huppert, is a globally recognized and accomplished French film star and stage actress, she rules over all of this roost. She’s brought along her current husband. That’s Jimmy (Brendan Gleeson). But wait, she’s also got her former husband Bento on the trip manifest. Máximo Francisco plays him. Bento has, since he and Frankie have divorced, “come out,” showing a deeper appreciation for men than the ladies. Frankie, Jimmy and Bento are respectfully fine, though No problems here. It’s all very French, you know. But issues and attached emotions are swimming upstream in this familial current.

FrankieThe pattern or template Sachs employs is mostly the paring off of two characters who walk as they talk about issues and feelings and the past and what might lie in the future after Sintra. Along the way, you get to decide if you might like to travel to Portugal for a vacation… alone, or with a spouse or lover… or all the family, whatever.

“Scenic” doesn’t begin to describe what’s behind, or surrounds the actors in most every scene, as they talk and talk… and walk and walk. Occasionally, for some strange reason, I found myself tuning out the dialogue and fantasizing about how I’d probably enjoy taking a trip to Portugal — never been there.

The film tended to keep me on the edge of my seat as if I were watching sand pour through the fingers of one of its characters. But that aside, the cast is replete with talent: Ms. Huppert and Mr. Gleeson, of course. I’ll always recall Gleeson doing In Bruges, Calvary and The Guard… all outstanding! There’s an Oscar-winning American actress in Frankie, as well: Marisa Tomei — so favored by moi. She does the part of Ilene. There are less known but fine actors too, mostly out of Europe.

Oh yes, one more American film actor is in several frames. He’s the love interest… or rather, he is in love with Ilene, Ms. Tomei character. Yes, Greg Kinnear gets to do the role of Gary. Sure ‘nuf, that’s his name. Gary proposes to Ilene near the time they make landfall along Sintra’s coast. They both live in New York City and know Frankie, having worked film shoots with her. Ilene demurs Gary’s offer. And, you guessed it… again. Gary plays the chump. Why IS that?

Speaking of why they name movie characters what they do… I would offer up a much better name for Frankie’s current husband, Remember, it’s Jimmy. Obviously, it ought to be Johnny, then this vacuous wannabe hip story about rich people wanting to escape inheritance taxes could be Frankie and Johnny. Indeed, that title is as original as everything else one must contend with watching a few talented people hiking up and down and all around to the very end of this motion picture somewhere along the coastline of Portugal.

Warning: Languages spoken in this film are French and English, with a few road signs in Portuguese.

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Gary Chew
Gary Chew was a classical music host, programmer and producer on Capital Public Radio’s KXPR 88.9FM, Sacramento for 18 years. He retired in January 2007. Read more about Gary's long and storied career here.
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