Film Review – Frank
Frank is probably most easily recognized as the movie where Michael Fassbender wears a fake head throughout the film. My first thought was that this would be the kind of film that either just works based on its weird idea or will just go off the rails. Yet it actually ended up being more in the middle for me. It is able to keep its odd ideas afloat the whole way through, but it also left me lacking any thoughts when it ended.
Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) is an average middle-class guy who bemoans his normal existence and dreams about being a musician. So much so that he takes to trying to create songs out of everything he sees. This passion doesn’t have the talent to back it up, yet he is a decent keyboardist. So when a band’s keyboardist flakes out on them, the bands manager, Don (Scoot McNairy), gets him to perform with them that night. When Jon gets there, he sees the lead singer, Frank (Michael Fassbender), who wears a papier-mâché head the whole time, and Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who plays the theremin and is easily angered and aggressive. When Frank invites Jon to join up long term, Jon jumps at the chance, convinced that the band and Frank could be great.
Frank is the quintessential free spirit. He is always trying to create music from anything and seemingly able to make a song from any idea or moment. He has created a group of misfits who love him for that and work with him because of that devotion. He is also a perfectionist, we are told in montages, as they spend months preparing before even getting ready to record a song. While Jon is enraptured, like the rest of the band, they see Jon as an outsider who doesn’t have the same level of creative energy as they do, and can potentially hurt the group, especially Frank. Jon wants to fit in and be respected, but his own music doesn’t have the same uniqueness and he instead spends much of the film tweeting and YouTube-ing the band, which starts to build a following.
That the idea of this film worked at all is a credit to Director Lenny Abrahamson, who does create some truly humorous moments, especially with the way information is revealed about Frank, but Don even more so. Don is in many ways a stand-ou,t here, in how he can be the weirdest guy in a film where another cast member wears a fake head. Don also has some great one-liners that have you laughing before you sense how weird and disturbing he is. Fassbender as Frank is interesting because it is Michael Fassbender wearing a fake head and this is just one of those actors that is able to do that convincingly. Clara is simply anger and protectiveness, which did make her seem bitchy, leaving Jon as the everyman with no real strong characteristics beyond wanting to succeed but not quite getting there.
These guys are fun, but they do not have a whole lot about them that makes them intriguing. They have these quirks and it is different enough that you want to see where things are going, but what they left me with ended up being very little. Frank and Jon’s relationship was a big problem because it never seemed to be clear what Frank was getting from Jon. The codependency from the rest of the band supporting Frank was why he would need Jon, but they had little actual screen time together, beyond Jon is “normal” and likes Frank and his music. So, much of the take-away for me was in keeping a bunch of mentally ill people together and keeping out any outsiders, because that is the way they are able to function. Yet, it seems hollow, as any kind of ideas or message do not exist, so we are down to it being about spending time with these characters. After the movie was done, I was done with them and really didn’t care what happened to most of them.
In the end, it was fun to sit through, but less fun to think about. This concept is so out there that you just want to see how it will work for you. There is some nice humor to keep things moving and you will never be bored. Beyond that, though, its quirkiness starts to fade soon after it ends, and the film itself does, as well.