Monday, March 2, 2015

A Lot Of Us Could Be Frank

Spoiler Alert: This review mentions major plot points of the movie.

I recently watched the DVD of a movie that had been on my radar for some time. The most likely way a film will spark my interest is via a newspaper review, which is something artistic types should keep in mind whenever they’re tempted to condemn all professional critics as frustrated losers who are jealous of genuinely talented people. A major portion of a project’s success will likely come from media types spreading the word about it. Finding the path to success, or even wanting success, is one of the main themes woven into Irish director Lenny Abrahamson’s offbeat comedy/drama Frank

Domhnall Gleeson portrays Jon, the everyman who guides viewers through the lifestyle and ambitions of the oddly named avant garde band Soronprfbs. Jon is obsessed with creating music but isn’t sure where to start until he accidentally crosses paths with the group’s borderline psychotic members, and is pretty much tricked into joining them for an extensive recording session at a vacation home hidden in a deeply wooded area. He quickly becomes convinced that Frank, the lead vocalist who spends all his time on and off stage wearing a big, cartoon-like head, is a genius.

Frank, as drolly portrayed by noted director/actor Michael Fassbender, is loosely based on an actual musician, but has elements of Jim Morrison, Neil Young, David Byrne, and countless other eccentrics who have enlivened the history of rock and roll. Thus, it’s perfectly believable that Jon would accept Frank’s nonconformity, as they once said in the Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer Christmas special, in exchange for being part of what could become a highly acclaimed and successful band. Besides, compared to Maggie Gyllenhaal’s snarling and knife-wielding Clara and Scoot McNairy’s manikin-loving and cheerfully suicidal Don, Frank often comes across as the voice of reason. Jon tries to build a following for Soronprfbs by secretly filming the recording sessions and posting updates on Twitter. 

His behind-the-scenes work results in an invitation to perform at South By Southwest, and the group reluctantly agrees to travel to America for the gig. Arriving in Austin, Texas, Jon discovers his Twitter campaign wasn’t that successful, due to the number of acts following the same path. From there, the band encounters one disaster after another, including a short-lived unplugged show by the only remaining members, Jon and Frank. Later, Soronprfbs achieves an ironic triumph by reuniting without Jon, and continuing on in total obscurity. Sadly, there are performers from every aspect of the arts in real life who find that approach more comforting than facing the risks of criticism and failure.

The switch from the secluded recording studio to the U.S. is like the start of a second movie, which makes Frank seem longer than its 90-plus minutes. Still, it’s that unpredictable storyline, along with character-driven humor and sharply drawn satirical jabs that make this movie an enjoyable adventure.


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