Each year, there is at least one major name film that hits the deadCENTER Film Festival. Last year, there was a couple of fantastic offerings including Kings of Summer and The Spectacular Now. This year, the biggest offering in my eyes was Frank, a movie starring Michael Fassbender and Maggie Gyllenhaal that I first gained notice of a few months back.
I remember watching the trailer back then and thinking it looked like a quirky little indie comedy – something along the lines of Little Miss Sunshine. The character of Frank is loosely based on late British comedian Chris Sievey and I expected a straight indie comedy. However, what resulted was something completely different – a darkly comedic dramedy about a band that is on the brink of success but seems destined to burn any chances they have along the way.
Michael Fassbender, who most of the world knows now as Magneto from the X-Men movies, stars as Frank – the lead singer of the band who always wears a giant fake head and never removes it. Ever. He even showers in it and only eats liquid food through a straw tucked up under the mask. Yes, it is clearly an indie movie.
However, it is so much more. This movie has a lot of heart and the actual lead in the movie is Domhnall Gleeson, the son of the amazing actor Brendon Gleeson, who most people know as Bill Weasley in the Harry Potter movies. The performance he turns in here should help most people move past his Harry Potter past and propel him into a career all his own. Of course, he next appears in Star Wars Episode VII, so he might end up a franchise player at the end of it all anyway.
In Frank, he stars as Jon, a keyboardist and song writer who can’t seem to write his own songs, no matter how far he looks for inspiration. That changes when he joins Frank’s band after their original keyboardist tries to kill himself. Sadly for Jon, everyone else in the band hates him, especially Clara, played by a crazed Maggie Gyllenhaal, who is at times very protective of Frank and at other times a homicidal maniac.
The movie traces the band from secluding themselves in a cabin in Canada to record their album to a trip to South by Southwest to finally perform, before everything implodes around them.
The movie is well acted, has a great story, and perfect bookends. This is not the story of Frank, despite his name on the title. This is Jon’s story and his character arc is perfect. Both Gyllenhaal and Fassbender are fantastic in their roles, especially when Fassbender removes the head at the end – a particularly heartbreaking moment. Scoot McNairy was also fantastic in his role as the band’s tech.
By the end, this is a movie for acquired tastes. Some people leaving the screening didn’t really “get it,” but for those who did, this was a great experience and one of the better independent movies I have seen so far in 2014.