Directed by Lenny Abrahamson
A young wannabe musician who discovers he has bitten off more than he can chew when he joins an eccentric pop band led by the mysterious and enigmatic Frank.
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★★★★★ review by James Haves on Letterboxd
WHAT THE FUCK GUYS.
This film came right the fuck out of nowhere and totally blindsided me. I can barely even form coherent thought right now. It's that good.
Frank is that good.
While many people have had The Lego Movie and Under The Skin (two other instant classics I must add) as their film-of-2014-that-immediately-ranks-among-their-top-top-favourites, that film for me is Frank.
I have never seen a film be so hilarious and so heartbreaking and mix it so well. Last film I saw that did that was In Bruges. This is the only film to parallel that.
Michael Fassbender is a godsend. His performance, at the end especially, is pure brilliance. He brings charisma to a role in which he wears a giant fiberglass head throughout. That's some serious acting going on there. Even Domhhall Gleeson, who I found insufferable and annoying in About Time, is perfectly cast here as a talentless, hacky songwriter who desperately wants to be an artist.
Frank feels like a film entirely written for me. It's all my favourite themes in one film. Surrealism, madness, artistry, creativity, commercialism, industry, avant-garde music, and loyalty. It balances everything and it blew my mind.
At the end of this film, I sat there in complete silence with my mouth agape, listening to the amazing soundtrack (and I can only get one song from it???) and just mulling over what I just saw in my head, but it completely took me by surprised. You can never expect anything to be this good. It's always a surprise.
I may be in the minority here, but this is one of my favourite films of all time. Is it my favourite film ever? Quite possibly! I need to watch it again to make that distinction, with a film so out-there as this. For now, it sits at number, and I'll just be listening to 'I Love You All' on repeat 11 billion times.
Seriously. This song is awesome. Go listen to it. Reminds me of Muse. Better singing voice than Muse. Michael Fassbender can really god damn sing. He should make an album. As Frank. Making Frank's music. I've listened to the actual Frank Sidebottom's music. It kinda sucks. It really sucks, in fact. Stupid novelty songs that this Frank wouldn't be caught dead making. They're separate entities to me. Real Frank's music doesn't exist. Anyway go listen to this song because it's really awesome.
★★★½ review by Adam Cook on Letterboxd
It is interesting to see that Lenny Abrahamson’s most populist film to date is about such an enigmatic man who shunned the mainstream. Although inspired by writer Jon Ronson’s time as the keyboard player in Frank Sidebottom’s band this is far from a biopic of one of Britain’s most unusual performers. The title character may share the same first name and Fleischer-inspired papier-mache bonce as Chris Sievey’s comic creation but that is where the similarities end.
Frank is a bittersweet comedy - part road movie, part music industry satire, part surreal character study and part exploration of mental illness. Much like the avant-garde music the band produce, Abrahamson’s film is a hotchpotch of influences that is impossible to fit into a simple box. The film is unpredictable as it constantly shifts tone and focus, and sometimes this waywardness can prove detrimental, but it gives the film a unique energy befitting its unusual and eccentric subject matter.
Domhnall Gleeson stars as Jon, a young musician with limited talent and an inflated sense of self-importance. A chance encounter on a beach leads him to become the keyboard player for experimental rock band, Soronprfbs - an odd band fronted by the even odder and mysterious Frank, a man with a papier-mache head. Seeing Frank and Soronprfbs as his chance for fame and recognition Jon invests all his time and money in the folly of creating the band’s first album.
The film may be named after the oval-headed frontman but Frank is still very much the story of Jon and his initiation into this strange world. The first half of the film is a droll and often absurd exploration of the creative process as the band lock themselves away in a rural retreat to create their masterwork. Frank might be the one with the false head but the rest of his band mates are equally odd and eccentric in their own ways, particularly Maggie Gyllenhaal as the band’s volatile theremin player who is fiercely protective of Frank.
The first half is quirky but never in a self-consciously obnoxious way. The film may poke fun at this oddball collective but there is always the sense of great affection towards them whilst a prevalent sense of melancholy lingers in the background. The real irritant here is Jon himself, a rather insufferable and self-serving figure made all the more annoying by Gleeson’s affected bumbling schtick. It’s not hard to see why the other band mates don’t like him but as the audience’s surrogate I found him far too unsympathetic.
Thankfully, the rest of the band are uniformly brilliant. Whether it is Scoot McNairy as the band’s tragic manager or Michael Fassbender as the eponymous Frank, the rest of the film is perfectly cast. Fassbender has rightly received the greatest acclaim delivering a surprisingly subtle and affecting performance as the fragile frontman. The way he uses the tiniest inflection in his voice or small gesture is masterful, transforming his character from light relief (the way he verbalises his facial expressions beneath his mask is a great running joke) to a figure the audience has a great emotional connection with.
Whilst the first half is played for deadpan laughs the film’s tone shifts dramatically when the Soronprfbs find unexpected fame on the internet. Although still littered with amusing moments the film explores far darker themes. Where once characters were treated as mere eccentrics the issue of mental illness comes to the fore. It’s an interesting and brave direction for the story to take but the transition is a little too clumsy. There are undoubtedly hints of this new direction throughout the opening hour but the execution still proves jarring.
Even though the tonal shift and tackling of mental illness is heavy-handed it proves far less problematic because it is anchored by a brilliant and affecting performance by Fassbender. Despite the script stretching itself too far you always believe in the characters, no matter how weird they may seem, because of the pitch-perfect performances. In lesser hands the film’s sentimental denouement could have been twee but it is played quite beautifully here.
Frank might be inconsistent but a story such as this was always destined to be rough around the edges. It still proves to be a thoroughly charming and bittersweet journey that is elevated by one of Fassbender’s finest performances to date.
★★★★ review by Eli Hayes on Letterboxd
thanks, FRANK, now that's gonna be stuck in my head for a WEEK
seriously though, gr8 muvi
the four big Ms:
music, mental illness, michael fassbender n maggie gyllenhaal.
★★★★½ review by Peter Rogers on Letterboxd
"Put your arms around me, fiddly digits, itchy britches. I love you all..."
Frank is not just beautifully shot, gut-bustingly funny and off-the-walls bonkers, it's so simple in its message. The film is about the division (and sometimes dichotomy) between 'your voice' and the 'voice of the masses'.
The titular Frank, played by Michael Fassenbender, has found his voice, he knows his art, he knows what it is that he's trying to say and the method in which that he wants to deliver it. So does his band, and they don't care who is listening. It's their art, there form of self-expression.
When Jon (Domnhall Gleeson) joins the band as a keyboardist, he is hell bent on finding his voice, and struggling to write songs he feels are meaningful. As the film progresses, we come to learn that Jon doesn't want to find his voice, he just wants to create a voice loud enough that people are listening. He wants to be famous, popular and mainstream - he'll do whatever it takes, including changing Frank's unique, and some even think visionary, voice.
Frank is a film about the artistic soul, failed artists, taste and understanding the method through which you express yourself, and how destructive that can be in the music industry.
A gem of 2014, and potentially one of my favourites of the year.
★★★★★ review by Ryan Francis on Letterboxd
I would've been very skeptical about this entire thing prior to watching it if almost anyone else had been cast in the role of 'Frank'. But knowing it was The Fass-man underneath that damn mask, I knew he would still somehow be able to give a genuine and substantial performance, even if his face was concealed for the majority of it.
And, for once, I was right about something. But only 'cause he's Michael fuckin' Fassbender..
Oh yeah, I loved the film overall as well.
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