Let’s not lose our heads…
Let’s get back into movie reviews, eh? Seeing as this is something I struggle with after a while, forgive if this is a tad shite. Nonetheless, I’m here to review stuff and this is a stuff to review, so review this stuff I will.
Making a moderate-sized splash in the 2014 indie scene, Frank is the loose adaptation of Jon Ronson (of The Men Who Stare At Goats fame)’s semi-autobiographical book of the same name, following Ronson’s exploits as the keyboard player of Frank Sidebottom’s Oh Blimey Big Band, a comedy-rock band led by the titular Frank, who insisted on wearing a huge paper-maiche head at all times. Of course, everything is fictionalised and stuff, to make an entertaining watch. So, is this the most likable it can be, eh?
It’s not your average fare, I’ll give you that. Frank follows the story of Jon (Domhall Gleeson), a budding young keyboardist struggling to write anything in the way of listenable music, as he joins an avant-garde rock group after the keyboard player attempts to drown himself in the ocean. This band consists of a cast of eccentric characters including the sleazy Don and the volatile Clara, not to mention their engimatic leader, Frank.
Advertising itself as a black comedy, I don’t think I’ve seen a film recently that so embodies this genre. While there is little in the way of “HERE THIS IS A JOKE”-style comedy, the laughs come rather from the incredible interactions between characters, the chemistry of the cast and the deadpan tone that it’s all presented in. The tropes of your average arty-“genre spanning” band are all here and accounted for and, as someone who has seen bands act like this and talk about their music in such a way, I found it absolutely hilarious at points. Though she is portrayed as the “villain”, Maggie Gyllenhall’s Clara has arguably my favourite line of the film in “stay away from my f*cking theremin”.
Aside from that, the performances are what you’d expect from such a seasoned leading cast, especially so for such a small film. In the lead role, Michael Fassbender shines under the mask, as both his body movement and speech somehow seems twice as expressive as his unmasked friends. Moreover, Domhall Gleeson, though supposedly the film’s voice of reason, does give in to the madness at points, making for some brilliant happenings.
Despite the laugh-out-loud moments this film packs in spades, there is also a lot of heart to this flick, gently drifting to theme of mental health, with many characters having histories in hospitals. While at very few points in this film to this bring down the overall tone, it does provide the viewer with a point to think about. That being said, I do feel like it could be explored more throughout the film, rather than just briefly touched upon.
You’d expect a film revolving around a band to has great soundtrack, and you wouldn’t be disappointed in Frank. The electronica-tinged tunes that pop up throughout the film are brilliantly toe-tappin’ blasts of the surreal, with Fassbender’s erratic vocal performances and the off the wall instrumentals solidifying it’s potential as a stand-alone. Particular highlights include the hypnotic psych-pop closer I Love You All and Frank’s Most Likeable Song.
However, very little films are flawless and Frank is no exception. The only main issue I had was the execution of the story at a structural-level. Everything feels like it’s going too fast, they go from little known to well known way too quickly, which I think is down to the short run time (1hr 35mins). There were plenty of oppurtunities throughout the film to expand upon and explore further. For example, SLIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD AVERT THINE PEEPERS after realising that the band are looking for a full-time keyboardist, rather than a reserve like he was planning, Jon simply brushes it off and stays, rather, I dunno, leaving, finding moral conflict then returning. SPOILERS BE OVER. It’s nothing extremely major, but it would’ve given the film a bit more girth and length to it.
Another issue I had was the use of Twitter as some kind of story device. Throughout the film, Jon secretly documents his experiences on Twitter and Youtube. These are shown through these really obnoxious text graphics. I don’t like picking on minor things like this but it really did frustrate me how every 10/20 minutes the film would basically directly tell you what’s going on.
Finally, there’s another little thing that could bother some, not me, but some. If you are a Frank Sidebottom fan, don’t be expecting a faithful adaptation of the character. While it does keep some of the traits, the style of the head is slightly different and the band aren’t called The Oh Blimey Big Band, also Michael Fassbender doesn’t put on a Mancunian accent for the character, what a crying shame. Though I’m in no means a fan of the character (I only really came cus it looked cool), I’d say it’d be better thought of as a tribute than an adaptation.
That said, all these three issues were extremely minor — Frank is a great film. While, yes, I did find some niggling issues with it, these took some major memory mining, I left it happy. There are points of absolute hilarity dotted throughout and the performances and soundtrack are astounding. It’s not for everyone, but if you have a taste for the surreal, I’d highly suggest this badboi.
Lots of hugs, kisses and laceration