Lisa Frankenstein: A Promising Feature Directorial Debut From Zelda Williams

LISA FRANKENSTEIN - Official Trailer [HD] - Only In Theaters February 9
LISA FRANKENSTEIN - Official Trailer [HD] - Only In Theaters February 9 / Focus Features

Writer and producer Diablo Cody teams up with Zelda Williams (in her feature directorial debut) to bring viewers the new gothic coming-of-age delight, Lisa Frankenstein. Though the film is far from perfect, it’s one the audience can have plenty of fun with. Reminiscent of other dark romantic comedies of the same caliber with quirky characters—think Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands meets Veronica Sawyer and J.D. in Michael Lehmann's Heathers—this homage to the 80s throwback is a nice surprise.

For the first twenty minutes of Lisa Frankenstein, the storyline feels a bit aimless, but once the film finds its footing and The Creature (Cole Sprouse) returns from the dead, things become interesting. There are some tonal shifts that some may find jarring, though Lisa Frankenstein does a good job of juggling various genres (horror, romance, and comedy) and intertwining the film’s themes.

One immediate standout is the set design choices. They are to die for and do a fantastic job of capturing the 1980s period. Similarly, other meticulous details reflect the intended era. From the fashion choices to various gadgets from the decade, you can tell that a lot of thought went into the film’s aesthetics.

The casting is flawless, and even those with minor roles add to the fun narrative. Kathryn Newton wows as Lisa, and every moment spent with the character will keep you invested. She makes questionable life choices, but there are still enough relatable qualities present to keep her likable. Teenage girls will resonate with Lisa the most. However, anyone watching who may have felt like a reject in high school or had to uproot and move to a new, unfamiliar area will connect with some of the film’s subject matter.

Lisa’s evil stepmother Janet, played by Carla Gugino, is a welcome addition to the feature. You know an actress has done their due diligence when you can’t stand the character they’re portraying. That said, it’s all in good fun, and she’s one of the most entertaining aspects of the film. Lisa’s dad, Dale (Joe Chrest), is under the thumb, though his laid-back attitude compared to Janet’s demanding, controlling demeanor makes for an awkward yet comedic pairing.

Liza Soberano’s Taffy adds moments of sincerity to an all-around dark script. She’s Lisa’s sweet-natured, popular stepsister, who adores our protagonist and is nothing but kind and welcoming. Their personalities offset each other well, and they share a sweet bond that is heartwarming to watch.

But perhaps the most noteworthy performance is that of Sprouse. His character is absent of dialogue throughout almost all of the film’s runtime. However, the actor still manages to convey all his thoughts and feelings through non-verbal body language, which is no easy task.

One of the biggest drawbacks of the romance between Lisa and The Creature is that it’s not explored adequately. Sprouse’s monster is kept in the friend zone for most of the film’s runtime as Lisa fawns over another guy. Still, Newton and Sprouse have great chemistry and are undeniably at their best when Lisa Frankenstein leans into dark comedy with the duo. These scenes will not only provide viewers with laugh-out-loud moments but are also when the narrative shines its brightest, alongside a clever conclusion that you won’t see coming.

Overall, Lisa Frankenstein may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s an impressive feature directorial debut from Williams that will put her future work on people’s radar. Equipped with excellent performances, impressive set and costume designs, and a story full of humor, horror, and romance, there’s plenty to love about this quirky tale.

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