In the literal sense, Frank is an adult male – roughly 5′ 10 – who wears a magnificent paper mâché crown equipped with bulging blue eyes and a moony mouth. Frank’s the frontman of an avant-garde band named “Soronprfbs” – a name that’s not so much a title, but something you say as you cough up phlegm.
He pushes his bandmates to their limits and makes them reach deep inside themselves to pull out new emotions and musical ambiance. For newcomer Jon Burroughs (played by Domhnall Gleeson of About Time), the experience is overwhelming and thrilling. He’s a bit worried though when he’s taken deep into the forest for an undetermined amount of time to “work on the album”.
The clan Frank attracts isn’t so much a cult, though many would agree the music provided by “Soronprfbs” is only meant for an underground movement. The musicians who surround Frank, as well as the fans who catch tidbits of the eccentric band on YouTube, are people who find exuberance in the absurd and unsupervised believing. Jon is taken in effortlessly, and easily slides his keyboard contributions into a debut live performance.
But, Frank – Leonard Abrahamson’s magical movie – has a lot to interpret. Let’s just say if Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan’s screenplay revealed Frank was a figment of everyone’s imagination, that twist would still fit within this alluring universe.
Michael Fassbender’s extrodinary masked performance anchoring this fantastic film stands for the peaks and valleys artists often find themselves confronting.
There’s the elation of finding a groove and finding a voice that somehow fits into a grand experimental opus of wonder. It’s here where you find out you’re not alone. Then, there’s the doubt and frustration of facing the fear that a passion project may not come to fruition. That group of dreamers hoping to gain success in what they love are really just a mishmash of people who share the same ambitions. No matter how many times you all practice building a pyramid, there seems to be an unstoppable force causing a hitch.
The story that Frank tells is that sometimes apprehension is a good thing. An art can’t be forced, and inspiration can’t be manufactured. There are many times in Frank where Jon sees an opportunity to expand the band’s audience and the musicians (including a loonily funny turn from Maggie Gyllenhaal) have flakey reactions. At first, we feel Jon’s feelings of annoyance, but Abrahamson (along with Ronson and Straughan) shows us the other side of the argument. Comfortably residing in “artistic purgatory” is comprehensible; even when Gyllenhaal is whaling into her mic and jamming on her theremin.
Frank is a strange cookie but sincere with every beat. It has occasions of pluckiness, but that’s to be expected in a film that refuses to be a quirky indie, but is also willing to compromise. The music is surreal and unheard of, which gives Frank its undeniable distinction. A track titled I Love You All sums up the whole enchilada.
For a film held together by a blank bobbling cranium, Abrahamson’s dramedy sure makes us feel a lot.
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