Movie Review: Lisa Frankenstein (2024) ***

“Lisa Frankenstein” is a revenge fantasy for depressed girls who read Jane Eyre at graveyards in the 1980s.

Diablo Cody says the name is a “coincidence” because she was naming the character after Lisa from Weird Science, and she didn’t mean to invoke “Lisa Frank,” a brand which might be litigious if the writer said otherwise. The movie definitely has a lot more to do with Weird Science than Lisa Frank. It’s about a magically resurrected person who exists to fulfill the teenager’s romantic and sexual fantasies. Thank you, magical lightning!

I was sold on the concept from the get-go. The lively teaser trailer had me pumped, and the movie certainly fulfills the expectations of the trailer. But there’s not a lot more than that. If you search up the version of the trailer that is ~4 minutes long, that is almost exactly the movie, except Lisa Frankenstein has been extended to ~90 minutes.

I’m not saying this as a complaint. The trailer should tell you whether or not you’ll like the movie. This is all button-pushes without much substance: amazing goth aesthetic, melodramatic performances from talented actors, and an Edward Scissorhands aesthetic homage.

If you want early Tim Burton done with feminine sensibilities, then Zelda Williams has you covered.

If you want Jughead Jones doing a mostly dialogue-free Demon Barber of Fleet Street, you’re in the right place.

If you’d like a whole lot of new screenshots for your angsty colorful Tumblr mood board, then there may have never been a better movie for you.

My question for moviegoers broadly is, do you love the idea of a tanning bed resurrecting Frankenstein’s Boyfriend so much that you’ll get something out of the movie version more than the trailer?

I did, but it’s less because the movie bounced on my buttons and more because debut director Zelda Williams did an amazing job. I was so obsessed with everything visual that I literally could not resist drawing while I worked on it. What a strong style. I look forward to more from this director, and I hope she drags her cinematographer along.

The story, eh. Diablo Cody’s writing often feels hollow to me. Concept is made king because Cody doesn’t create fully realized characters that feel human. There is something terribly flat and mean-girl about the way that Cody draws characters in every movie I’ve seen outside Juno, and sometimes I really wonder how Juno managed to be so human given the givens.

The story *mostly* works if you see it as being written by someone with a grudge toward certain archetypes which may or may not actually exist. It’s all emotional catharsis without needing to grow up. Our heroine can remain forever in a stunted state of teenage love.

Fabulous performances cover a lot of shaky ground. Kathryn Newton is divine as a very old high schooler (she looks and feels 27, even slouching her way between lockers, but this is normal for the Hollywood High School Cinematic Universe). Liza Soberano is precious. Carla Gugino puts a lot of work into realizing her villainous stepmother. Jughead Jones joneses Jugheadily.

Show up for the concept, stay for the aesthetic, and just kinda step over the writing. Lisa Frankenstein is fabulous fun.

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