Moviegoers who are used to the rapid-fire pace of most films today may be driven to commit hara-kiri at the relaxed pace of director Ira Sach’s European-style Frankie. Films today have been fashioned for the no-nonsense, immediate gratification of the unformed youthful mind. Adults are made to suffer through choregraphed mayhem, slaughter by the slice, and bullets flying overhead, all in ear-splitting stereophonic sound. Then, when a leisurely made film like Frankie comes along, and action fans will shriek and say it puts them to sleep. Well, no, it won’t.
Isabelle Huppert plays a fading film star (she is anything but) who is dying of cancer but still wants to gather her family together for a lovely vacation together. She has chosen the beautiful Portuguese town of Sintra. Sachs and his cinematographer Pui Pocas have selected all the best spots in the hill town that are extremely photogenic against which to show off the lovely French actress. It’s hard to determine which is more beautiful---Sintra or Huppert. I vote for Huppert.
Huppert’s character of Frankie has invited her best friend Ilene to join the family on vacation. She is played by Oscar® winner Marisa Tomei. Frankie has plotted to set Ilene up with her son Paul (French actor Jeremie Renier) and perhaps stir up a romance. Ilene throws a wrench into Frankie’s plan by showing up with her boyfriend Gary, played by Greg Kinnear. Gary is also in the movie business as a cameraman, and Illene has been Frankie’s hairstylist for years on all her films. Although, strangely, Tomei looks rather disheveled and her hair seems as though it has never seen a comb.
Other family members invited for the idyllic respite in this picturesque town are Frankie’s granddaughter Maya (Sennia Nanua), her ex-husband Michel, who is gay (Pascal Greggory), her second husband Jimmy (Brendon Gleeson) and his grown daughter Sylvia (Vinette Robinson) and her disgruntled husband Ian (Ariyon Bakare).
Frankie and Jimmy share a loving relationship. Gleason is a rough, gruff- looking guy and a man’s man. But he’s tender with Frankie and shows his fear that he doesn’t want to lose her.
It’s a hard to define the film as it doesn’t seem that much happens. And yet, it all happens almost subliminally as does a hot summer day’s breeze. The performances are all exquisite.
Frankie is an adult film, one that doesn’t come along very often. There are no explosions or sword fights. But there are adult themes that are true to life.
(Released by Sony Pictures Classics and rated “PG-13” for brief strong language and some sexual material.)