Michael Fassbender, Domhnal Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Scoot McNairy in a film by Lenny Abrahamson.
Frank is an oddball comedy about a young struggling musician named Jon (Gleeson) who joins an eccentric band led by the mysterious and enigmatic Frank (Fassbender) and his terrifying sidekick, Clara (Gyllenhaal). Jon ingratiates himself with the band as they retreat to a cabin in the woods to record an album and grows enamored with Frank’s unique musical sensibilities and odd behavior, such as wearing a giant fake head and making seemingly purposefully off-putting music.
Every year, a film comes out that tries to grab the championship belt for quirky, heartwarming indie comedy, and Frank seems to be the contender for this one. The elements are all there: hip, cool guy soundtrack, endearing, yet thinly developed weirdo characters, mental illness, deadpan comedy and Wes Andersonian touches and camera movements.
Despite all this, Fassbender is still a charismatic figure, even in a giant fake head. As Frank, Fassbender plays sheepish and joyous very well; I may not buy into the mental illness angle fully (due to how flimsy of a plot device it is), but Frank is endearing as a damaged soul who just wants to make music.
The crux of the film lies with Gleeson as Jon. Jon is a misguided young person who wants to make music but, more than that, he wants to be a rock star. It’s clear from the way he insists on cataloguing and recording his every moment while in the band. He doesn’t understand the people in this band and mistakes Frank’s persona for a character or a quirk, rather than something more serious, which ultimately leads to the band’s problems as the film goes on.
It’s a little rough to watch things come undone. To be fair to Jon, for awhile, the film never seems clear on what Frank is either. You buy into him as an enigma that the world would be intrigued by, you watch bandmates driven mad out of a feeling of never matching up to his greatness and yet, ultimately, you realize that these are all just people with problems and depression that are trying to be saved by music.
Watching the band fall on its face and come apart feels more masochistic then enjoyable. You want these people who need each other to stay together. They’re a real family and there’s a real story of emotional attachment there. It’s a shame that they’re instead written as caricatures in a quirky movie band.
Frank opens today in select theaters.