Film Review: Frank dark comedic bliss
Frank (Michael Fassbender) is eccentric with boundless creative energy and has the making of a very famous musician. He is however, trapped within an enormous novelty head constructed of papier-mâché. We follow Frank and his chaotic pursuits with musical exploration for 95 minutes of dark-comedic bliss; wherein Frank and his band with the unpronounceable name, Soronprfbs, pursue different ideas of what it means to be famous in the music industry.
The journey starts with Jon (Domhnall Gleeson), a songwriter with about as much pizzazz and interest as a mouldy sponge. He is very ambitious, but also absolutely lacking with any level of creativity. We laugh as he ad-libs, writing songs about women and their varied coloured coats and shopping bags on the street. He speaks like Hugh Grant, looks like Ron Weasley, his character is so cringeworthy and vanilla when posed beside the emotional flibbertigibbet, Frank and his cranial cartoon dome.
The pair unite after Jon is recruited for his keyboard-playing abilities. He is added to the musical menagerie performing in Frank’s shadow consisting of bystanders, Alice (Lauren Poole), who says about 10 words n the entire film, the cynical Frenchman , Baraque (François Civil) who absolutely despises Jon, the relentlessly suicidal Don (Scoot McNairy), who has a clinical fetish for mannequins; and Clara, the band’s own Yoko Ono always presented in a baby-pink dressing gown (Maggie Gyllenhaal).
Holed up in Venga, the band’s Irish countryside hub, Soronprfbs set aside time to perform a series of ‘field experiments’ for their new music. These scenes are surprisingly engaging – as the tasks of writing songs and performing repeatedly as a band in real life would be so tiresome and boring comparably. We watch Frank doing frog jumps in mud and the sound of water being poured from one bucket to another within picturesque Dublin landscapes. All these sounds to be potential samples in the album that would be made, probably, in due time…
Even though Frank is the leading man within the band and the character after which the film is named, the character that resonated the greatest with me was the vitriolic vixen, Carla. Within the band dynamic, she enables Frank to be creative, she is his emotional backbone, but with this power she often holds him captive to her wishes and limits his ability to “reach to all of the furthest corners” on his own. For instance, when Jon mentions the band’s opportunity to play at SXSW she is not supportive, even though there is great interest in the band. As toxic and unlikeable as her character was, I couldn’t deny my ongoing admiration for cool gal Maggie, especially in the scene where she is wrapped in mismatched coloured knits, sat cross-legged in an Irish field tweaking her theremin in a trance.
The film had me reading about Chris Sievy and his own alter ego, Frank Sidebottom (whom this Frank was based upon and was written by Jon Ronson who played in Sievy’s band), as well as musical misfits, Captain Beefheart, Syd Barret and forever interesting and rewarding source of creativity, Daniel Johnston. I think this is important to mention because I feel that watching Frank will have a similar effect on other viewers, which will lead to discovering more about these great artists and in turn, educating more about the mental illnesses that both have been catalysts for their craft and also what plagued them.
Frank review by Carol Bowditch.