Frank is a dark, funny, and oddly heartfelt look into the creative process with another star turn for Michael Fassbender, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. Not as much as I had hoped I would with the crazy trailers that preceded it, but overall pretty damn good. ‘Frank’ is all about this enigmatic musical genius (played by Fassbender) who also happens to wear a huge, creepy fake head. However, he isn’t really who the story follows, with that character, Jon (played by the likeable-as-hell Domhnall Gleeson) being the ‘straight’ character who is quickly surrounded by all these weird artists as they go away to write an experimental album in the outskirts of Ireland. The movie takes some turns I really, really didn’t see coming (more on that later) but ultimately succeeds in looking at the relationship between creative genius and mental illness, and how thin the line separating the two really can be.
The movie begins with Jon walking home from work, and ‘observational singing’ about his surroundings, trying to generate song ideas. He gets home and records for about two minutes before tweeting “Long day of working on music.” or something to that effect. It’s a really important character bit for what happens later, as he is soon swept up with the experimental music group Soronprfbs (Yep, that’s the name, and it’s pronounced various ways the entire movie) after they lose their previous keyboardist. The band travels to a getaway in Ireland to start writing a record together, as you slowly learn more about Frank in the process. Although off-putting at first, Jon eventually learns that Frank is not only a musical genius, he’s also incredibly kind, helpful, and understanding of all of his band-mates. Speaking of them, none of them take to Jon very much, and he struggles the entire time they are making the album to get along with them, especially Clara (played dreadfully deadpan by Maggie Gyllenhaall). I won’t spoil much after that, as the bands time in Ireland is really only the first half (and frankly the better part) of the movie, as the band goes to SXSW in Austin to play a gig later on, and things definitely go ‘south by’ (sorry) the end of the movie.
What really is great about the movie, even though I didn’t love the execution in the third act, is how it totally subverted my expectations. You’d expect that the band, with all of its quirks and problems, would come together in the end for their one big chance (I was expecting a type of ‘School of Rock’ ending) but holy shit does it do a 180. I respect the hell out of the director Lenny Abrahamson and writer Jon Ronson for the choices they made when Frank, Jon and the band head to Austin. Ultimately it made for a much more realistic scenario, as I hoped for the band, just like Jon very much did, but shit happens that throws you off course, and sometimes it’s just meant to happen. I started out 100% on Jon’s side, able to relate in that I love making music as well, but often having trouble doing so. By the time the band is in Austin however, his need to be noticed and become part of something quickly overshadows what the rest of Soronprfbs (and Frank) want out of it. Jon’s desire to belong is ultimately the downfall of the people he’s surrounded himself with, and nobody more-so than Frank.
By the movie’s end, you learn much more about the enigmatic Frank, and it’s a really heartfelt turn when you learn that behind his mask is a fragile and scared man, who adjusts to the world around him by hiding behind his shield of a fake head. Fassbender is amazing as Frank, being able to emote so well behind this huge head for the majority of the movie, as well as embody the spirit of a wild and inspired musician for all of the musical segments. The rest of the cast are solid too, with a special mention to Scoot McNairy, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite character actors.
Alright, that’s gonna wrap up ‘Frank’. If you like movies about the creative process or music, or love Fassbender like myself, definitely give Frank a shot. While I didn’t love the third act, I think the ending is actually perfect. It’s the type of movie that, when I watch it again, I’ll likely love the next time I see it. I know this review came a bit off the schedule, but I’ll have another entry tomorrow on MAZE RUNNER, which I got to see with a friend at a screening yesterday, so keep an eye out for that. Thanks for reading!