Frank Review: Headed in Two Directions

Photo Credit:http://filmschoolrejects.com/features/meet-frank-sidebottom-michael-fassbender.php

Looking back on all the films I’ve seen recently, both good and bad, nothing has really been all that original. Frank serves as a dose of true originality in a time where that’s pretty rare. The movie is bizarre, timely, and quite effective.

We follow Jon (Domhnall Gleeson), an aspiring musician that finds himself invited to join a band led by Frank (a covered but brilliant Michael Fassbender), who wears a paper-mache head over his own. The eccentric band also includes standoffish Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who often stand between Jon as he pollutes Frank with ideas of where the band should take their music.

With Jon cleverly using social media while they record an album in a cabin in Ireland, they get invited to perform at South by Southwest, which leads Jon to believe their “different” sound may need to become more familiar for that audience.

Frank combines a lot of ideas about what art should be, managing to remain remarkably original throughout. Had it not, there would have been a level of hypocrisy (similar to the one found in the strong but contemporary Chef from a few months back).

But the film also tackles issues of mental illness literally head on. Combined, these themes make for a very interesting, although perhaps a bit confused, narrative. By the time the credits roll, it’s difficult what we’re supposed to take away from Frank. Is it about artistic integrity, mental illness, or both? The story presented here doesn’t blend them strongly enough for it to be both, but it doesn’t seem to choose one either.

Still, the performances are actually quite stunning. Fassbender, unable to use his face, strikes a balance between endearing quirkiness and unavoidable tragedy. Frank himself is a fascinating figure, his handling putting many other films that attempt to tackle mental illness to shame. Gyllenhaal is just electric, her piercing eyes stealing every scene she struts into. This is easily one of the most memorable performances of her career.

But for all it gets right, Frank loses a lot of its confidence by the end and doesn’t take the leap to greatness. See it for the performances and the simple fact that there’s nothing else really like it. Just know that there is a hollowness to the resolution that feels indecisive. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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