“Stop saying your facial expressions out loud. It's extremely annoying”.
Star – Michael Fassbender
Genre – Comedy
Run Time – 105 minutes
Certificate – 18
Country – United Kingdom
Amazon – £5.99 DVD £8.99 Blue Ray
Awards – 13 Wins & 14 Nominations
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So Frank, based on late British comedian Chris Sievey's iconic comedy character Frank Sidebottom, a Northern club comic who would wear this huge papier-mâché head on stage whilst playing songs with his band and telling stories, this oddball act somehow deemed worthy of an international movie by Irish indie director Lenny Abrahamson. At the 2014 Sundance premier out in the Utah desert city the audience were given the opportunity to wear the said fake Frank masks to enjoy the film.
Johnny Depp was Abrahamson first choice to play Frank but when that was a big no and Michael Fassbender said he wanted to do it then the film was green-lighted. My interest for this film was Abrahamson, who directed the rather interesting black comedies Garage and Adam & Paul, and the not so interesting What Richard Did. I was hoping of more of the same here, themes of friendship amongst sadness and desperation the Irish director’s thing. If you get the chance you should checkout Adam & Paul, the deliciously dark comic tale of two heroin loser addicts in Dublin.
Michael Fassbender ... Frank
Domhnall Gleeson ... Jon Burroughs
Shane O'Brien ... Lucas
Scoot McNairy ... Don
Maggie Gyllenhaal ... Clara
François Civil ... Baraque
Young Jon Burroughs (Domhnall Gleeson) wants to be in a band. He writes songs and plays his keyboard in his bedroom and mom keeps him in toast and tea. One day out walking on the beach of his home town of Brighton he meets a pub band in distress, their keyboard player trying to drown himself in the angry winter sea. After some smalltalk with band manger Don (Scoot McNairy), Jon is drafted into to replace the soggy spaced out musician, now the bands new keyboard player, not what anyone was expecting the day to go.
Don: You play C, F and G?
Jon Burroughs: Yeah.
Don: You're in.
The boys and girls just about get on in rehearsals for the experimental indie rock band ‘The Soronprfbs’, lead singer Franck (Fassbender) wearing that huge head. Frank never takes the mask off and sleeps and even eats in it. Frank is odd but apparently a brilliant songwriter and musician so they go along with it, hoping it will help the bands progress. They then set off to Ireland to put an album together, taking their new keyboard player with them, shacked up in the countryside in a wooded cabin in an out of season holiday retreat to get to work.
Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who plays the pheromone, is not that impressed with Jon, especially when he befriends Frank and helps him with songwriting, driving a wedge between them, Clara secretly in love with Frank. When the cash run outs tension rises even more in the camp. But things start looking up for the band when Jon uses social media to generate publicity, resulting in a showpiece gig in London. But that goes badly wrong as Frank is a nervous wreck and can’t handle the fame he craved. But they do enough to earn a booking in America as the legend of Frank is playing much better there, Frank born in Austin, Texas, and so, perhaps, more relaxed out there. Not so. Frank is a complex character and his profound lyrics come from a likewise place and needs to be handled with care as the band begins to implode.
Jon Burroughs: What goes on inside that head... inside that head?
Me and my brother always have this argument over indie music and indie film. I can’t stand indie music and yet try out a lot of indie film. I don’t see indie music as non mainstream but simply student rock for people who want to be different and indifferent to the music they listen to. I don’t think indie film is about that and simply a movie that’s low budget and noncommercial, the original point of indie music labels. Sadly Frank is an indie film about indie music and the pretentious saps around that scene and so this fell flat on me. I just don’t get middle-class musicians wallowing in melancholic self-indulgent song writing and crunchy guitar when they should be as happy as f**k wit all the advantage sin life they get. Punk and metal is working-class and angry and has every right to be, as do those movies. Private school kids with guitars pretending to be working-class and angry gets my goat.
The best bit of the movie is the idea but it’s boringly executed. It ends up being about hey; its international movie star Michael Fassbender’s voice is under the big giant head everybody! Look who is in my movie! There are occasionally good introspective lines and quotes about loneliness but most of the time its shoe gazing teenagers looking through their fringe stuff. I was bored after twenty minutes and not much fun thereafter. I stuck with it as I like the director and he does interesting stuff but this was as depressing as its themes.
All of the music was performed by the band and is played live by the actors on screen and I suppose that is something. But the band is too self destructive in the film and that doesn’t make much sense in context, unless some sort of metaphor for mental illness, the films sub context. The self-defeating vibe here gets all rather irritating. A Commitments approach and the exploitation of that always comic Irish accent would have been more fun here.
It cost $1m to make so the excellent cast more interested in the script and idea than box office so took industry minimum by the looks. The audience didn’t agree and it only scraped $1.2m back in cinemas and on DVD and so a bit of a flop. It’s almost like it was made for that film festival pretentious crowd. I saw it on Film4 and they tend to like these films. It was one of Mark Kermode’s films of 2015 no less. I get that the giant head is all about the masks we present to the world and the different versions of us under them and music often address that emotionally side best but the bloody film still has to be enjoyable for that metaphor to actually work on screen. Domhnall Gleeson tries his hardest to bring some brevity to proceedings but Gyllenhaal is wasted here and so it all becomes all rather morose and slow and so not a movie experience. I suppose you could say it’s like listening to a Radiohead album. It will appeal to people who are of this ilk and like the concept and idea so sure to appeal to someone out there.
Imdb.com – 7.0/10.0 (54,236votes)
Rottentomatos.com –72% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – 75% critic’s approval
Indiewire –‘Michael Fassbender spends the majority of Lenny Abrahamson's irreverent comedy "Frank" buried underneath a giant plastic head, but the honesty of his performance is on full display’.
New Yorker –‘The whole thing is in danger of becoming arch and quirky, yet Abrahamson steers the final act of his drama toward a sombre, unhappy rumination’.
Newsday –‘"Frank" has a wry sense of humor, the ring of authenticity and glimmers of genuine wisdom’.
The Film Stage –‘Abrahamson eventually tells us the answers, but he's far more interested in dissecting the intricacies and dynamic of a band along the way’.
Epoch Times –‘Anyone who knows working musicians will be turned off by the spectacle of such self-defeating behavior. No professional musician would act like this’.
Junkee –‘Michael Fassbender's face is not at the centre of Frank, but his evocative physical performance proves the film's central thesis: success is about a lot more than a great face’.
Ecritic.com –‘A finely grained ensemble piece, more sober than it needed to be, and more complexly engaging’.