Sundance 2014 – “Frank”

Frank is a hard film to get around. It’s definitely a love it or hate it kind of film. Basically, it’s the story of John, a wanna-be songwriter/rockstar in England who meets up with Frank, played by the ever-more-impressive Michael Fassbender, the leader of a band whose creative process and performances are a bit…unorthodox.

Frank, by the way, wears a large, fake head. All the time. Even in the shower.

Finding himself in Ireland for a recording session as the band’s new keyboard player, John tweets and posts videos of the band to Youtube, gathering a small but ardent following of fans who seem to be torn between disbelief in the whole thing and those who genuinely think the band is going to be huge.

John, for all of his initial enthusiasm about working with the band, and finding himself especially inspired by Frank’s energy and his zen-like approach to music, begins to doubt the whole thing. After surviving nearly a year of surreal musical creativity and recording, a set of songs is finally recorded, but before the music can be released, John is contacted by the organizers of the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival. Convincing Frank that this is the band’s big break, that Frank’s music will be heard and appreciated by the fans, they travel to Austin to perform.

And that’s when the wheels come off. Carla, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, flips out about John wresting control of Frank away from her…well, it’s a very Yoko Ono kind of situation, not aided at all by Frank’s obvious mental state, as well as the mentality of the other band members.

Difficult to encapsulate, despite being loosely based on an actual person, Frank is really the story of one man and his search for peace. That man is not John, but Frank, and as we learn Frank’s history, we are able to see Frank not as a big,fake head, but simply as a man, lost since childhood in the forest of his own mind.

Take it as you will, but I say if you want to see a film that can actually make you feel good while simultaneously making you feel bad, this is the film for you. Fassbender’s best work comes at the end of the film, when, finally exposed, he gives us a broken man to weep for, while allowing us to cheer for him and wish him well.


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