Frank – Scary
Don’t let the word above fool you; in no way is “Frank” scary, in that classical sense. It’s scary because of the fact that in the race to be cool and different there are so many pitfalls and things that can trip people up in their way to either being famous or noteworthy that it’s extremely easy to forgot that not everyone has to agree or be like you, but in a world ruled by social media and who yells the loudest or gets the last word in, it’s easy to lose your way and want to be the loudest, and pardon my language, be the biggest dickhead in the room. So I guess the scary part is how close Frank is lampooning the social media culture we live in right now. Other than trying to make a point, Frank is weird, charming, and all together great.
Frank is the story of Jon, a would-be musician with about 20 Twitter followers. As fate would have it, he meets the band Soronprfbs as the keyboardist attempts to drown himself. After discovering that Job can play a few chords on his keyboard, Don, the band’s manager invites Jon to play with the bad that night, which eventually turns into an invitation to help the band record their new album in Ireland. As time progresses, Jon records footage of the band’s daily routine which bolsters his Twitter account numbers and rewards him with an invitation for the band to play at SXSW. Upon arrival in Austin, Soronprfbs discovers that they might not get the reception they anticipated on the eve of their first big performance.
There is no doubt that Frank is a strange film. Every characters has an odd personality quirk and while that could run stale quickly, the manic performance of Michael Fassbender distracts you from a film that could get dull and a little too weird quick.
Speaking of the eccentric cast, aside from Fassbender, everyone else is able to hold their own, especially Maggie Gyllenhaal, who plays pretty much every musical archetype that people probably hate. She’s moody, hateful, emotional, and best of all, real. While not all musicians are like this, one of my long-time friends is a musician and he is reasonably normal, but Gyllenhaal plays it up very well, and the reference made later in the film comparing her to Syd Barrett is perfect.
Of course what would be a film about a band be without music, while I have a love/hate relationship with mumble-core, noise-core, post-hardcore indie rock, I actually like all the music in the film. It’s as if Captain Beefheart and Mr. Bungle ran a music school and Soronprfbs were their prized pupil. The best comedic beats of the film feature montages of the band practice, but they are also some of the most heartbreaking looking back.
Frank is essentially a love it or hate it film, despite what you might see on Rotten Tomatoes or other film arrogate sites. While I found it quirky, fun, and distressing all at the same time, that is something that might turn off the average viewer expecting a film about a musician wearing a paper-mâché head and his weird band-mates. There are some funny moments in Frank, and the way that Jon, played by Domhnall Gleeson, is able to ground the film before it gets a little too weird is a nice touch, but there are also some very dark, and scary, moments that are jarring, especially when it comes to the third act.
All in all, Frank is an interesting take on fame, music, and social media-driven success. Grounded by some great acting and music, Frank might not be one of the most conventional films this year, in fact, it’s far from it, but it could very well be the “Her” of 2014.
Fun Fact: Frank’s head is based on the story of Frank Sidebottom.