Review: Lisa Frankenstein

Score:  B-

Director:  Zelda Williams

Cast:  Kathryn Newton, Cole Sprouse, Liza Soberano, Henry Elkenberry, Carla Gugino

Running Time:  101 Minutes

Rated:  PG-13

"I just don't think anyone should be forgotten."

Part nostalgia, part camp, Zelda Williams' Lisa Frankenstein is a brimming coming-of-age period piece that is, without exception, unlike anything you've seen before.

Kathryn Newton stars as Lisa Swallows, a misunderstood teen who spends her free time in the cemetery, caring for the old tombstone of a young boy who died decades ago. Trading football games for peaceful readings, she builds an unusual fondness for the stone statue erected in the middle of the graveyard.

Intricately layered, Lisa isn't your typical protagonist. Broken and unsure, she is still grieving the traumatic loss of her mother. Her new step-sister Taffy has a good heart, but they are unequivocally cut from different clothes, their interests and personalities unbalanced.

One morning, after getting drugged at a party that she didn't want to attend, Lisa is confronted by her stepmother, played beautifully by Carla Gugino. Her coarse, rough tone immediately sends a chill down your spine as Lisa absorbs the abrasive approach, wanting nothing more than to escape the room and the situation, her father sitting unruffled nearby.

It is here that we begin to piece together Lisa's existence. Constantly belittled, she is suffocating under the layer of hairspray she uses to keep her hair high. And with her world ignoring her from all sides, she feels lost, painfully longing for an escape.

Enter the corpse. Alive. And, to a degree, personable.

Never one for a lost moment, Diablo Cody presents a slew of well-thought-out and established characters. Set within the bustling 80s, the acclaimed screenwriter embraces the era, utilizing a slew of reference points to capture the nostalgia and offer up an exclusive, rare gem that showcases a variety of genres disguised as a horror-comedy.

Credit Newton and co-star Cole Sprouse for stretching the material, giving Cody's world a sense of reality as they deliver timeless performances that help the story (pun fully intended) radiate life.

As the pair design a plan to find a few missing body parts, viewers see Lisa come into her own. Confidence overflowing, she channels her inner goth child, embracing the moment as she curates a style and a swagger, walking down the halls of Brookeview High, flower hat tilted perfectly to one side.

But as karma continues to hit those who have done Lisa wrong, our principal player persists in her journey of self-love and self-discovery. And though we admire her voyage to avenge her mistreatments, things snowball quickly.

We must remember that Lisa is a teenager with a graveyard crush. But she is also on a mission, her sudden boost of courage and tenacity making her feel invincible. While her initial victims result from careful planning, they soon become the product of emotion and impulsion. But again, Lisa is a high schooler. How this wreckage ends is the last thing on her mind.

While most associate Diablo Cody with Juno, her Oscar-winning debut screenplay, the famed writer has several other equally witty and entertaining projects. Though I wouldn't classify Lisa Frankenstein as her strongest work, it is likely her most unique. And with enough glitter, pastels, and shoulder pads to transport anyone back to the decade of excess, it is destined for cult status. And that, given her resume, is saying something.


About Stephen Davis

Stephen Davis
I owe this hobby/career to the one and only Stephanie Peterman who, while interning at Fox, told me that I had too many opinions and irrelevant information to keep it all bottled up inside. I survived my first rated R film, Alive, at the ripe age of 8, it took me months to grasp the fact that Julia Roberts actually died at the end of Steel Magnolias, and I might be the only person alive who actually enjoyed Sorority Row…for its comedic value of course. While my friends can drink you under the table, I can outwatch you when it comes iconic, yet horrid 80s films like Adventures in Babysitting and Troop Beverly Hills. I have no shame when it comes to what I like, and if you have a problem with that, then we’ll settle it on the racquetball court. I see too many movies to actually win any film trivia contest, so don’t waste your first pick on me. My friends rent movies from my bookcase shelves, and one day I do plan to start charging. I long to live in LA, where my movie obsession will actually help me fit in, but for now I am content with my home in Austin. I prefer indies to blockbusters, Longhorns to Sooners and Halloween to Friday the 13th. I miss the classics, as well as John Ritter, and I hope to one day sit down and interview the amazing Kate Winslet.