Lisa Frankenstein Review: Diablo Cody Strikes Again With a Morbidly Absurd Rom-Com for the Books

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The timeless tale of Frankenstein lives on — again… and again. It was recently confirmed that Jacob Elordi will star in Guillermo del Toro’s upcoming film adaptation. Plus, there’s a Bride of Frankenstein remake with Annette Bening and other big names in the works. The Academy Award-nominated Poor Things even has shades of Victor’s horrific story woven into its absurd storyline. And now, Oscar winner Diablo Cody (Juno scribe) has taken a stab (pun intended) at the classic tale of man creating monster, who then destroys man.



The marketing team behind Lisa Frankenstein has dubbed the new film from director Zelda Williams (daughter of the late great Robin) a “coming of rage love story,” and you’ll quickly learn that Tim Burton’s extensive work has undoubtedly influenced this new project. Lisa Frankenstein is a wild ride that is often laugh-out-loud funny in an uncomfortable and polarizing sort of way.


Juno Meets Jennifer’s Body

Lisa Frankenstein

4/5

Release Date
February 9, 2024

Director
Zelda Williams
Pros
  • The over-the-top nature of the film works thanks to the skilled writing and direction.
  • The cast and their performances are exceptional, particularly Carla Gugino and Kathryn Newton.
Cons
  • Lisa Frankenstein will surely be divisive, potentially leading to a love-it-or-hate-it response.


Rising star Kathryn Newton has been in several acclaimed films, some perhaps stronger than Lisa Frankenstein (i.e., Lady Bird and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri). However, Lisa Swallows is arguably her best role to date. Full disclosure: This movie will be hit-or-miss with various demographics. Some will likely love it or hate it. The end result may surprise you that Focus Features got away with a more family-friendly PG-13 rating, but times have changed, it seems, and that presumably extends to MPAA’s rating system.


Here, Newton plays Lisa Swallows, a shy high schooler who gets bullied at home and has been forced to move in with her friend and classmate Taffy (Liza Soberano) after Lisa’s dad, Dale (Stranger Things star Joe Chrest) and Taffy’s mom Janet (Carla Gugino) link up. Each of these performances is exceptional, a perfectly cast little makeshift family ensemble that will leave you roaring in laughter more often than not. Family-friendly movies sometimes fall victim to performances that are over-the-top to a fault, but with Zelda Williams’ skilled direction and Diablo Cody’s reliably delicious writing, this “over-the-top” notion works to thrilling effect.


Related
Bride of Frankenstein Remake Sets Filming Window; Annette Bening Joins Stacked Cast

The upcoming film, titled The Bride, will reunite Dark Knight co-stars Maggie Gyllenhaal and Christian Bale.


The year is 1989 for this tale — and no, there won’t be any Taylor Swift musical accompaniment from her acclaimed studio album of the same name. The soundtrack is instead consistent with the glorious decade, as are the colorful costumes that might make you want to dig through your own wardrobe to find something similar. It’s a wonderful balance of popping set design laced with a morbid edge that screenwriter Cody showcased in a little-known 2009 film called Jennifer’s Body, for which Cody has said she’s interested in doing a sequel.

Watch Out for Carla Gugino


But for now, Lisa Frankenstein will satisfy a certain craving if you’re in the mood for something similar. The high school tropes turn uniquely dark in this tale once a sort of supernatural phenomenon brings a young man (Cole Sprouse) back to life in a cemetery near Lisa’s home. Sprouse’s career has certainly come full circle, it seems, after his childhood character of Julian in Big Daddy once told Adam Sandler that he’d like to be named “Frankenstein.” What a lovely turn of events.


Related: Best Horror Romance Movies of All Time, Ranked


Now, Lisa must juggle hiding away this undead man while keeping up with school and navigating an already-tormented home life, thanks to new stepmom Janet. And on that note, we could go all day writing about Gugino’s scene-stealing portrayal here. If Lisa Frankenstein had been released earlier on during awards season, there’s a case to be made about considering her outrageous performance. Watch as she gulps down a martini during the daytime while cleaning her house and listening to an “empowering” self-help cassette tape on retro headphones.


Millennials have grown up watching Gugino stand out in hit films like Spy Kids and Sin City, and more recently, she has also dabbled in horror with Netflix projects like Gerald’s Game and The Fall of the House of Usher. It’s wonderful seeing her continue to own the screen, even if her time in Lisa Frankenstein is a bit too limited.



Cole Sprouse holds his own as the monster-turned-love interest, with little dialogue but speaking volumes instead through his horribly beautiful and romantic actions “in the name of love,” as they say. But Newton takes the cake. She is simply riotous in ultimate deadpan glory. Just do yourself a favor and suspend all disbelief as she uses magical tanning beds, grotesque violence, and twisted flirtation to ensure she doesn’t “die a virgin.”


The charming Henry Eikenberry is also a hoot to watch as Michael Trent, the hunk at school Lisa Swallows is initially tracking until a supernatural turn of events throws her in even more of a spiral than it already was. It’s also plain to see that co-star Liza Soberano has a bright future ahead of her, especially if she continues to lean into similar roles as the airheaded, self-righteous stepsister role she nails in this latest movie of hers.


From Focus Features, Lisa Frankenstein hits theaters on Friday, Feb. 9. Check out our hilarious interview with Cole Sprouse and Kathryn Newton for the film below:


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