Frank & Penelope (2022) Movie Review – An inventive and fast-paced ride that entertains, despite an unconvincing love story at the centre
An innovative and fast-paced adventure that is entertaining in spite of the non-sensical love story that is at the heart of it.
“You ever seen the film, Thelma or Louise?” Frank asks Penelope when they meet in the evening.
“There’s a road that they drive to the end of. I’d love to drive on the road.”
“Is the road beautiful?” asks Penelope.
If you’ve seen the classic of the nineties you’ll recognize it’s not. It’s not even the same road they travel on in Frank & Penelope the action-horror-comedy and romance road trip mashup by Director Sean Patrick Flanery.
Flanery’s debut film, Frank and Penelope, stars Entourage’s Kevin Dillon alongside an ensemble of mostly new actors which includes Billy Budinich (Frank), Caylee Cowan (Penelope), and Sydney Scotia (Molly). The film begins with Frank who is devastated and at a loss after discovering his wife was cheating, who stumbles into a sex club in which Penelope performs. The stunning young stripper quickly captures Frank’s heart and his credit cards – before the sting turns off and she is spotted riding shotgun in pursuit of the attractive stranger.
The style is a 70s-inspired grindhouse and plot lines are based on classic slashers of the past, Frank and Penelope is a multi-faceted blend of genres and influences. It is, above all, a tribute to classic road movies. However, with a sloppy dialogue and a string of absurdly bad choices (why not stay up all night in the spooky ghost town that the County Sherriff just warned them about?) They’re much dumber as well Dumber than Bonnie or Clyde.
After passing through the city’s limits and onto the highway, which is surrounded by Texan deserts, Frank and Penelope begin to unwind and begin talking, as you would do during an extended car journey with hours of time to kill. The conversation isn’t sparkly (for two people who are aesthetically attractive and don’t wear a lot of clothing options, Frank and Penelope have incredibly sloppy chemistry) which makes Penelope’s sudden attraction to Frank during the next scenes hard to take in. This is made worse by the bad writing that has Penelope writing about her true feelings for Frank using the exact excessive language she used to deceive and rob him.
Not a particularly appealing character as a pair Frank’s meat-headed romantic and “stripper with gold in her heart” Penelope is so cloying that the appearance of the murderous cannibals appears as an added bonus.
Imagine The Hills Have Eyes with a bible-thumping twist. The residents of the dusty Highway County “Quicksilver” have an interesting background with Terlingua which is the real Texan town that was the actual location of the film. Similar to in the film’s fictional Quicksilver, Terlingua was one the most prosperous industrial hubs which was the home of America’s largest mercury mine. However, following the mine’s dramatic decline in the late nineteen-thirties and 40s, the mining company was into bankruptcy and the town was almost abandoned. Today, it is classified as a ghost town.
It’s an excellent location for the film’s enhanced second part, and Flanery is able to make great use of this using wide-angle shots that immediately capture the odd, disturbing beautiful desert’s dying sunset, which burns low as the town’s abandoned buildings fall silently into the growing darkness. “Get out and out of here,” before “them crazy Appalachians” appear, County Sherriff Caulfield (Kevin Dillion) clearly says to Frank and Penelope as they travel towards the forty-mile stretch without cell service. Instead, the pair make a stop to check in to stay a night at the creepy guesthouse right in the middle, operated by”the “crazy Appalachians.” What could happen?
The next thing that happens is a swift acceleration into bloody, schlocky pedal-to-the-floor bloody merriment that is complete insanity, and doesn’t always follow logically, and is by far the most enjoyable part of the film.
When they are on the stage, Johnathon Schaech and Donna D’Errico are equally impressive in the roles of Chisos or Mabel i.e. the clan’s murderous matriarch and patriarch, both portraying the role of the villain with enough insight to truly be threatening. (In an especially memorable scene that shows Frank and Penelope as they naively meet two to eat a meal at the guesthouse Chisos explains his sin-eating practice with a such gentle charm that it is horrifyingly plausible.) In spite of the fact that the screen-time of his character is limited, Keven Dillon is another one of the film’s greatest moments and the humorously credible Deep South Daddy bravado amplifies the impact of Caulfield’s shocking character storyline.
In the end, there’s plenty to enjoy about this original action-horror. However, Frank as well as Penelope’scracks start to appear when the action slows down. Flanery’s attempts to create suspense with slow burn don’t always work and the longer it takes for the film to develop the more time the viewers are required to think. This is not the best thing for the film, which in the end is no more intelligent than a typical b-grade blockbuster.
For instance, I’m struggling to understand the film’s very sexist sexuality politics, which seem too obvious and obvious to overlook. Along with some graphic portrayals of violence towards women in the film most of the time Frank and Penelope’stension are caused by the constant danger of sexual assault. Although not a new concept for horror, Frank and Penelope’s hammy, almost playfulness with the subject might make a bad impression on the lips of certain viewers. What, in this scenario do we consider of Penelope charmingly telling a flirty Frank “Don’t make the first move,” or her mantra that “If you don’t see a man scream into a rage, he’s not loving him.”
I think (at least, I would like to think) they were attempts to create irony, or perhaps had an alternate subversive, subversive significance. However, it is evident that there wasn’t enough thought into the story and the film does not follow through.
Frank as well as Penelope is the kind of film that movie lovers will like or dislike. In actuality, it’s an amalgamation of genres and styles that you can change between them on a scene-by-scene basis. Yet, despite its elegant appearance, game-casting, and wildly entertaining story, the film is mostly ruined by the poor writing, which will rub on its most ardent supporters.
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