My usual rule for choosing movies to review is that they must be at least a year old. I do this to avoid making this just another movie review blog that can’t possibly keep up with new releases, even if many of them do suck. However, since Maxwell reviewed a couple recent movies in his past few entries, I think I can allow myself to cheat this once.
“Frank” is an enchanting little black comedy about a man named Frank (Michael Fassbender) and his band.
Frank is a weird guy, mostly because he wears a papier-mache head reminiscent of the one worn by English comedian Chris Sievey for his “Frank Sidebottom” character.
The story is told from the point of view of Jon (Domhnall Gleeson), a sad man who is a desk jockey by day and musical wannabe by night. He’s the kind of guy who spends five minutes writing a horrible song and then tweets something like “Spent all day working on songs, now it’s time for dinner #nomnomnom.”
One day, Jon stops to watch some paramedics save a drowning man. Luckily for him, that drowning man happens to be the keyboardist for Frank’s band, leaving a spot open that Jon is oh-so-happy to fill.
That night, Jon plays for only a few moments before the band has an on-stage meltdown, but you can see it in his eyes. He’s caught the fever. The showbiz bug has bitten him, and he can see his name up in lights.
Jon’s dream comes true a few weeks later when he gets a callback from the band’s manager Don (Scoot McNairy), asking him to come to Ireland to “work on something big.”
But what Jon originally planned as a weekend sojourn soon turns into several months’ worth of weirdness as the band tries to hammer out an album despite their various eccentricities.
“Frank” revels in its own absurdity and strange charms. The rest of the band (dubbed with The Soronprfbs) are what you would call “true artists,” in that they’re mostly insane, and that’s excluding the guy with a fake head
Their music is equally strange. Most of the time, the band doesn’t even record their music, instead opting to frolic around the forests of rural Ireland recording all sorts of noises to put on their “album.” Even when they do get instruments in their hands, they mostly vamp randomly, with Frank in the middle dancing in a trance-like state.
The thing is, there isn’t much to Jon talent-wise. Sure, he can play whatever anyone tells him to, but he doesn’t exactly measure up to the maniacal musical genius that Frank is. As Don puts it to Jon when he hears him composing his own (awful) arrangements, “Sometimes you’ll think, ‘Why can’t I be Frank?’ but there can only be one Frank.”
Of course, Jon, the aspiring musician, does not take this advice to heart and seeks to further his own creativity and make sure that everyone else knows about it. (He’s now started up a blog and Youtube channel to go along with all his Tweets.)
Jon spends too much time trying to tap into an imagined cosmic source of creativity while ignoring the all of creation going on in front of him.
Towards the end of the film, Jon travels to Frank’s hometown and discovers that, just like Jon, Frank grew up in a “constricting” suburban environment and not some hellhole that Jon had always used to explain why Frank has so much more inspiration than he does.
The simple fact is that Frank is just better than he is.
Despite the film’s many colorful characters, Fassbender dominates the show. While it takes a more courageous man than I to attempt anything on screen, to volunteer for a role where the audience doesn’t get to see your head takes serious chutzpah.
It’s a testament to Fassbender’s talent that, despite the head, he feels the most alive of any character in the film. Sure, he can’t make eye contact or facial expressions, but I’ll be damned if the way he talks and moves doesn’t seem to do it for him.
The only real criticism I have of the film is that, while the first two acts are joyful in their quirkiness, the third is kind of a bummer. Frank is one of those movies, where the oddness comes crashing down around the characters in its final scenes, dragging the audience kicking and screaming back to reality.
Not gonna lie, “Frank” is a bit of a weird one, both in subject and in tone. But if you give it a chance, it’ll take you on a wild ride you’ll never forget.