Frank  (2014)

I love movies about bands. Inspiration, formation, break-up, reunion. I love the rise and the fall, I love the montages of the song-writing or recording processes. "Frank" is unlike any other band movie I've seen, blending elements of black comedy and genuine sadness, without a real protagonist or antagonist, a lot of ambiguity, and focused on something totally surreal.

Jon (Domhnall Gleeson, The Force Awakens, Ex Machina) is an aspiring song-writer in England. He plays keyboard and sings, but his writing style is pure pop rubbish, trite and hacky. A chance occurrence leads him to filling in as the keyboard player at a gig, after which he becomes a member of the band, which is made up of total artistes and a frontman in a papier-mâché head.

Frank is the leader of The Soronprfbs, a band of weirdos that play extremely avant-garde music. Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal) plays a theremin, the guitar player only speaks French, and Frank never takes his mask off. Frank is the visionary of the group, and brings them all to a cabin in the woods to record their album. Frank and the others keep pushing boundaries, while Jon keeps trying to jump in with his version of "pop sensibility", all while documenting the band's process online.

The online following leads to them getting a gig at SXSW. While most bands would be excited to play such a huge festival, Jon is the only one looking forward to it. The rest of the band is indifferent to success at best, hostile towards it at worst. Frank's mental state starts to crack as he's pulled in two different directions; part of him is thrilled by the idea that there are fans who admire his work, while another part is terrified of what is to come.

The final act of the movie takes a turn from the dark comedy of the first two acts, but manages to ease into the melancholy smoothly. There is a 'twist' that makes you look back at earlier moments in a different light, and hit me right in the feels.

There's a weird sort of spoiler-ish moment that happened for me. It's not really a spoiler because his name is listed in the trailer, but so much time had passed between putting this movie on my "to watch" list and actually getting to watch it, I totally forgot that Michael Fassbender was the star. There was actually something refreshing about not knowing who was under the mask of Frank. A lot of the time it can be hard to separate a well-known actor from the character; but by forgetting who was wearing the head, I was able to just totally embrace Frank with no distractions.

I loved Fassbender, I loved hating Gyllenhaal, and I really liked Gleeson. I loved the battle between musical expression versus commercialism, the artists versus the sell-outs. This movie managed to realistically portray both sides, showing both of them as villains and heroes. It's an interesting take, and worth a watch.



On the [Celluloid Hero] scale, "Frank" gets a 9 out of 10.




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