Lisa Frankenstein Review
While Kathryn Newton absolutely shines, Lisa Frankenstein is often hampered by the terrible script and the awkward tone.
PLOT: An upcoming love story about a teenager and her crush, who happens to be a corpse. After bringing a horrific situation back to life, the two embark on a journey to find love, happiness – and a few missing body parts.
INVESTIGATION: 2023’s obsession with Frankenstein seems to continue into 2024 as we get another version of Mary Shelley’s story. But this one feels more authentic Weird science than the more macabre tone of, say, Kenneth Branagh’s version. And with Diablo Cody behind the lyrics, I guess that’s no surprise at all. Juno it took over the world and changed communication in teenage cinema, so expectations were high for the film. And this is the return to the species after a long absence. But, like Jennifer’s body, Lisa Frankenstein feels more like wasted potential than anything.
Lisa Frankenstein follows the title character as she ponders over a grave and the man is buried six feet deep. He is brought back to life and they become a chaotic couple. The story goes on in a very basic way, and there is not much energy in the proceedings. There’s a lull in the middle of the movie where all the weird stuff gets out of it and we’re just watching a normal high school romcom for a bit. Fortunately, things get back on track eventually, but it adds to the uneven narrative. Lisa’s stimuli are all over the place and she feels disconnected from scene to scene.
Kathryn Newton has been great in everything she’s done up to this point, and this is no different. Lisa is pretty much a Tim Burton character in both her behavior and looks and I was all for it. The film is at its best when Newton accepts the stranger. Every time the script makes her dirty, Newton makes the most of it. She is very good. I love a good Frankenstein’s monster and Cole Sprouse is great as The Creature. He pulls off a fun physical comedy that got a lot of laughs from my theater. The romance is a little iffy, but that’s less due to chemistry and more to weird plot developments.
Liza Soberano is also fantastic as Lisa’s step-sister Taffy. This could have been a more stereotypical place, but they make it very friendly. Unfortunately, the writer feels the need to identify herself, thus reducing the point of her character. It almost feels like Diablo Cody trying to put herself in the background. Then there is Carla Gugino who feels wasted in the role of Lisa’s stepmother. It is stereotypical and she does not use her talents.
I had high expectations for Zelda Williams because she has always been seen as very intelligent, with a deep knowledge of film. And there was a bit of stuff I liked about this with the neon color scheme and fantastic clothing. But the scene never matches the tone and there is a lot of sloppiness for the first time. Most of the actors feel that they are in different films and that there is no real coherence to the vision.
Now let’s get into the Diablo Cody of all things. The script is easily the worst aspect of the film and there are always elements introduced, which do not lead to any progress on the plot. I kept waiting for the earring that The Creature wears to be relevant, but despite its obvious location, people who should notice it don’t notice it. The dialogue is old and tired and I question how it ever became her trademark. The number of PMS jokes almost made me think this was written by someone in the 90s. And it does not seem that she understands the story of Frankenstein, making the Creature more of a homicidal maniac against a newly created person, unable to control his emotions, strength and impulses.
I can’t help but look at it Lisa Frankenstein and see all possibilities. Kathryn Newton and Cole Sprouse are great leads and this could easily be Edward Scissorhands of the 2020s. And I’m not just talking about the set design. Unfortunately, the filmmakers seem to be going against the type of film they are making. Surrealism was desperately needed to take over but, beyond the opening and drug-induced stupor, it’s a dull affair. While I could see this achieving some sort of cult status one day Jennifer’s bodythere is not enough campiness.
LISA FRANKENSTEIN THEATER EVERYWHERE IS ON February 9, 2024.