I love independent movies. I just do! Indie movies are generally more heartfelt, interesting and experimental than most Hollywood blockbusters. Small budgets also make the director really think about getting things right and that they shouldn’t get carried away with fancy effects and set pieces. Indie films are also the best place to look for new faces in the film industry and new styles of filmmaking. This year’s Frank is a great example of new talent and the film is easily one of the most overlooked movies of the year. Have you ever heard of Frank? I don’t think so. Not only is it overlooked, but I also think it is one of the best films I have seen all year.
Frank is about an aspiring songwriter named Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) who miraculously ends up in an experimental band called Soronprfbs’s as the band’s keyboard player because the band’s original keyboard player tried to drown himself. The band is at first reluctant about Jon except for Frank (Michael Fassbender) the lead singer and songwriter of the band who always wears a paper-mâché mask. Frank is a musical genius and can find inspiration from pretty much anything from the sound of water to the sound of a stick being swung and even a carpet (seriously). From then on we experience Jon’s time being a part of Soronprfbs and all the things he goes through.
Frank is a very odd movie, just like the band of characters in the film but also one of the most original films of the year. I have almost never seen a film like this in my entire life. The story is very well written and it is just so unpredictable (except for the ending. I’ll get to that later). I thought that the film might take a right urn at some moments but no; the film then takes a left turn. Jon’s journey with the band never gets dull or boring. It is great to see a film that understands the importance of surprising your audience. Another great thing about the writing is the humor. Frank is an extremely funny movie. The film’s sense of humor is not your typical sense of humor and it makes all the better. Having seen the decline of American comedy for the past few years I have began to see that the UK is starting to pick up as creating really good humor, first with Edgar Wright’s movies (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End) and now with Frank. What also makes Frank amazing is the way the film discusses the craziness and eccentricities of artists. Since I am an aspiring writer for anything film related, I can totally understand the process of trying to get inspiration as well as the levels of “insanity” that an artist must have in order to reach their furthest corners. Pretty much all of the characters in the film are weirdos but that gives them the creativity to make original music. Jon, the only normal person in the band, has a hard time to think of any lyrics for a song simply because his life is so uneventful. When he joins Soronprfbs, the weirdness starts to grow on him and he gets more and more creative and inspired.
Not only are the characters in the film amazing but also so are the actors performing as them. Domhnall Gleeson does a great job at acting as an Everyman who got mixed in with a bunch of weirdos by happenstance. The supporting cast is also very impressive. Maggie Gyllenhaal especially does a great job as her character Clara. Clara hates Jon from day one and also has a bad temper. This created some of the film’s funniest moments.
The main performance that I need highlight is Michael Fassbender’s performance as Frank. Fassbender’s performance has got to be one of the best performances of the past few years. His performance as Frank just keeps getting better as the film’s goes on. Fassbender has continuously impressed with his performances in Shame, Prometheus, 12 Years a Slave and now with Frank. What impresses me the most is that he was capable of embodying a wacky and electrifying without using his face. Frank’s paper-mâché mask is very inexpressive and adds another layer of mystery around the character. What happened to him? Is he just wearing it for fun? Does he find protection under it? Is he just high on drugs? Who knows. It is said that the most utilized tool of an actor is their face. Fassbender had to figure different ways of expressing his character’s emotions and personality, causing him to become more physical. As Jon says in the film: “Mostly, he (Frank) seems friendly, though sometimes, a little intense.” If you observe Fassbender’s physical performance, you can see how precisely his body moves during the music recording scenes so that we can understand all of the enthusiasm and energy in him. But as more setbacks appear in the film, his body starts to shrink and shrug as if he wants to hide even more under his protective mask. That just proves how great Fassbender’s performance. I swear, Frank’s first appearance in the film is one of the best first appearances for any character.
In terms of detractors, the film’s does have some but nothing too bad. Firstly, the film’s has some tonal inconsistencies. The film begins as very light-hearted and as a comedy but towards the end, the film started to become kind of melodramatic and heavy-handed. This made the film feel very unbalanced. Also, the third-act of the film, while touching, is a little bit sloppy. The story begins to fall apart and descends into a cliché ending that ties up all loose ends and conflicts. Another issue with the third-act is that the story began to feel rushed as more and more plot points are shoved in. I think if the filmmakers made the film longer or if they removed certain plot points during the end then the film would have been better. This is one of the few instances where I wished the film were longer because I didn’t want the film to end!
Frank is a hilarious movie that will keep you interested from beginning to end. The film boasts great performances from the entire cast and especially from Michael Fassbender. The film is also interesting in a way that it explores inspiration and weirdness can help create amazing artists. Even though the film suffers from some tonal issues as well as a poorly paced third-act, I still highly recommend checking out Frank. I give Frank an A.