Ira Sachs makes films that are quiet only on the surface. Daily routine and committed long-term relationships wrap his bourgeois characters up in what feels like a blanket of normalcy. But internal storms of doubt and jealousy always rage, threatening to penetrate the façade and reveal more sobering truths within.
“Frankie” walks right up to the edge of such a transition and looks over the proverbial cliff. Quite literately sometimes because the impressive ensemble cast spends much of the film strolling the pathways and cobblestone streets of Sintra, Portugal.
Estimable human chameleon Isabelle Huppert plays the film’s sickly namesake, an acclaimed French actress who has gathered her immediate family in the picturesque European town as a kind of farewell. While world media organizations believe she has overcome a dangerous bout of cancer, her actual prognosis is far direr.
Such crucial subtext bleeds through in casual conversations that occur over one long balmy day. Sachs’ browsing camera trails each character at different times, giving them space to oscillate between grief and selfishness. There’s no judgment made against their weaknesses and failures, but “Frankie” also doesn’t let them off the hook.
Frankie’s kind and conflicted husband Jimmy (Brendan Gleeson) slowly comes to grips with what like might look like in the near future, while her pouty son Paul (Jérémie Renier) hides his pain underneath a pompous veneer. Marisa Tomei plays one of Frankie’s close friends, and steals the movie with multiple showstopper scenes that cut to the heart of the film’s appreciation for honesty.
All of this anxiety washes like a wave over Frankie, who is more interested in experiencing what little time she has left rather than getting caught up in the affairs of those who have a future. Which makes Huppert the perfect actor to embody the duality between external stillness and internal panic.
“Frankie” (opening Friday, November 8, at Landmark Hillcrest Cinemas) plays like her last will and testament where no earthly possessions come close to sufficing as penance.
“Burning Cane:” Directed by the youngest director to have a film in competition at Tribeca Film Festival, this film tells the story of a deeply religious woman’s struggle to reconcile her convictions of faith with the love she has for her alcoholic son and a troubled preacher. Opens Friday, November 8, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
“Doctor Sleep:” In this sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining,” Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) meets a young girl with similar telepathic powers to his own who is being hunted by a murderous cult. Opens Friday, November 8, in wide release.
Coronado Island Film Festival: This film festival has a full line-up of studio films, features, documentaries, shorts, student films and culinary cinema plus parties, industry panels and live entertainment. Screens from Friday, November 8, to Monday, November 11, at multiple venues on Coronado Island.
“End of the Century:” Lucio Castro directs this romantic drama about two men who randomly meet one day in Barcelona only to discover they had spent time together two decades previous. Opens Friday, November 8, at the Landmark Ken Cinema.
“Frankie:” Ira Sachs wrote and directed this drama about a sick French actress (Isabelle Huppert) who gathers with her family and close friends on a vacation in Portugal. Opens Friday, November 8, at Angelika Carmel Mountain Cinemas and Landmark Hillcrest Cinemas.
“Last Christmas:” A young woman (Emilia Clarke) addicted to making bad decisions meets an attractive young man (Henry Golding) while playing Santa’s elf in a department store in this romantic comedy from Paul Feig. Opens Friday, November 8, in wide release.
“Midway:” Roland Emmerich lends his particularly unsubtle style to depicting the horrors of the infamous naval battle between the Japanese and Americans that took place six months after Pearl Harbor. Opens Friday, November 8, in wide release.
“Playing with Fire:” John Cena stars in this family comedy about a group of elite firefighters who are tasked with babysitting three children. Opens Friday, November 8, in wide release.
One Time Only
“Bummed:” This indie drama follows a pregnant widow struggling with her faith who hits a homeless man with her car. She quickly recognizes the man she hits is her husband, Brendan, who was lost at sea three years ago. Screens at 8 p.m. Friday, November 8, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
“Rocketman:” A musical fantasy that charts the early professional career of singer Elton John (Taron Egerton), whose meteoric rise from shy piano prodigy to pop superstardom was filled with wild excess. Screens at 8 p.m. Friday, November 8, and Saturday, November 9, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
“Gremlins:” Screens at 7:30 p.m. Monday, November 11, at Arclight Cinemas La Jolla.