Sometimes being subtle with your movie can be an overdone trait. Case in point Ira Sach’s latest film “Frankie,” which just premiered in competition at Cannes. This unconventional family gathering takes place by the seaside of Portuguese town of Sintra, which makes this the first time Sachs has managed to shoot a film outside his native New York City. An attempt at evoking Eric Rohmer’s anti-romanticism, “Frankie” falls completely flat.
The person that binds all the characters in the film together is Francesca aka Frankie (Isabelle Huppert), a famous actress who also happens to be dying of cancer. This vacation is the last chance for this matriarch to spend quality time with the ones she loves. She’s accompanied by ex-husband Michel (Pascal Greggory), current husband Jimmy (Brendan Gleeson), stepdaughter Sylvia (Vinette Robinson), son Paul (Jérémie Renier) and on-set stylist /best friend Irene (Marisa Tomei) who brings along boyfriend (Greg Kinnear) a man whom she has just rejected a marriage proposal from. Got that?
All of these characters have their own issues, albeit they try to check them at the door on this vacation due to the circumstances, but they also can’t help but come up from time to time. It’s all delivered in rather unconvincing fashion, mostly because the way Sachs decides to shoot these characters is in a very matter-of-fact way. It may have worked in “Little Men” and “Love is Strange,” but it doesn’t work here because the story doesn’t have enough heft. There also is barely any chemistry with this cast. Whenever Huppert speaks English it feels awkward rather than convincing. Ditto Gleeson, who is miscast in the role of her passive-aggressive hubby.
In fact, the performer that manages to stand out above the rest is Tomei, a talented actress that, despite an Oscar win with “My Cousin Vinny” back in 1993, never truly got the respect she deserved in Hollywood. Not only is the 54-year-old actress still deliriously beautiful, having aged as gracefully as any actress I can think of, but her performance in “Frankie” shows extra layers to her art. [C+]