Thursday, September 4, 2014

Movie Review: Frank

*Portions of this review were first published during the 2014 Sundance Filme Festival

Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) is an aspiring musician plinking away at his keyboard in a frustrated attempt to write a hit song. He feigns sincerity, but in his incessant appeals to social media and his inability to create even mainstream drudge it is clear that he is motivated by a pursuit of fame and not by any deeply-held artistic vision.

But in a bit of dumb luck, he crosses paths with a band fronted by Frank, an experimental musician whose face is perpetually obscured by a large paper-mâché head and for whom music is an end in itself.

Frank invites Jon into the band as keyboardist, whisking him away to a secluded cabin in Ireland to record the new album, despite a cold reception from the other members of the band, including Maggie Gylenhaal as a cold and volatile theremin player.

The film eventually strays from a story about a quirky Euro-band recording in Ireland to one about mental illness and expression with a backdrop at the South by Southwest festival. But the central question of the movie, "Who is Frank and why does he wear the head?" is left largely unanswered even as the band collapses and Frank’s mental state deteriorates. One would assume that if you cast Michael Fassbender in your movie and spend the whole movie hiding his face that you would've done so for a reason. Right?

Frank was a buzzy film at this year’s Sundance festival and certainly has it's moments of charm. The actors commit fully to the gonzo setup, particularly Gylenhaal who is delightful while threatening to stab our protagonist and, later, making good on her threat.

But in this critic’s opinion, the film is one that perhaps had grand things to say if you could just hear them from underneath a muffled mass of paper mâché.

Grade: B-
*'Frank' opens in Salt Lake City on Friday, August 29.

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