Review: Family trip hits a dead end in 'Frankie'

Isabelle Huppert, Marisa Tomei and Greg Kinnear are among those drifting through this stiff family drama

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

An actress gathers her family members in Portugal for what will be a final goodbye in "Frankie," a meandering drama in search of a purpose.

It never finds it.

Co-writer and director Ira Sachs assembles his cast in Sintra, a picturesque city in Portugal along the Portuguese Riviera. Hopefully everyone got a lovely vacation out of the deal, because otherwise this stilted exercise is all for naught. 

Marisa Tomei and Isabelle Huppert in "Frankie."

Isabelle Huppert is Frankie, a television and film star who brings her extended family to Portugal to enjoy some time together and share some news. Among those gathered are her son, Paul (Jérémie Renier), her daughter, Sylvia (Vinette Robinson), and her second husband, Jimmy (Brendan Gleeson).

She also brings along her friend Irene (Marisa Tomei), a hairdresser on movie sets. Frankie intends to set Irene up with Paul, but Irene has brought along her boyfriend Gary (Greg Kinnear), a film industry veteran (he's a cinematographer) who uses the trip to propose to Irene and corners Frankie, trying to get her to star in his directorial debut. 

"Frankie" is a decent travelogue but the story never finds its spark, and Sachs (who co-wrote the screenplay with Mauricio Zacharias) doesn't allow us any insight to the characters to give us any reason to care, one way or another. Kinnear's character keeps talking about the "Star Wars" film he's working on, which seems more interesting than anything in the story being told. 

The film closes with a shot that stays fixed so long it eventually resembles a still frame. It's seems to imply the longer you stare at it, something of meaning will emerge. Or maybe you'll just find yourself looking for something that isn't there. 



Rated PG-13: for brief strong language and some sexual material

Running time: 100 minutes