Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Frank (2014 film)

Based on the newspaper article Oh Blimey! by Jon Ronson, Frank is the story of a young wannabe musician who joins an avant-garde band whose singer who wears a big fake head. Directed by Lenny Abrahamson and screenplay by Jon Ronson and Peter Straughn, the film is a fictionalized story about the cult artist Frank Sidebottom who was a persona of the late comedian Chris Sievey as the explores a young man joining this band as he is eager to succeed much to the ire of his bandmates as the titular character is played by Michael Fassbender. Also starring Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Carla Azar, Francois Civil, and Scoot McNairy. Frank is an offbeat but truly whimsical film from Lenny Abrahamson.

The film revolves a young wannabe musician who aspires to make musician where he joins this strange avant-garde band as its singer is a guy who wears a paper-mache head. For Jon (Domhnall Gleeson), he sees a chance to unleash his ideas as the vocalist Frank is inspired much to the chagrin of their bandmates including its theremin player Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Once Jon exposes their attempts to make music to the public which leads to a big gig at the South by Southwest festival, things would eventually unravel despite Frank’s enthusiasm to be seen by everyone. It’s a film that plays into the world of music and how some are just willing to play music for fun and not really care about fame and riches. Then there’s others like Jon who believes that people would want to hear the music and is willing to make it thinking he would succeed.

The film’s screenplay definitely plays into this conflict between the concept of fame and art as the script definitely display allusions into how some musical geniuses aren’t able to cope with being famous. Though Jon is a person with good intentions who joins the band by accident when their previous keyboard player tries to drown himself on a beach. He is a person that really wants to make it in the world of music as he has lots of ideas but Clara and other bandmates think it’s mediocre. Frank sees promise in Jon’s ideas as does the band’s manager Don (Scoot McNairy) though he warns Jon about using Frank’s genius to get himself ahead. It plays into this idea about these musical geniuses who are very gifted but extremely trouble as Frank is someone who never takes off his mask as it relates to ideas of mental illness. Even as the script features references to the real Chris Sievey as well as other eccentric but troubled geniuses as Daniel Johnston, Captain Beefheart, and Syd Barrett.

Lenny Abrahamson’s direction has this strange mix of being very offbeat and whimsical but also has a sense of charm in its approach to humor and drama. Much of it plays into the idea of this band known as Soronprfbs as they’re very strange in not just their music but also in the fact that they have this singer and personalities who really can’t keep it together. Abrahamson’s presentation to the scenes set in England, Ireland, and parts of New Mexico and Austin, Texas are simple yet there is this energy that is just engaging to watch. Especially in a scene where Frank and the band are trying to create songs as Abrahamson maintains an intimacy in those scenes. Even in the close-ups to showcase some of the sense of passion in the music as well as the tension between Clara and Jon over Frank. The musical performances are quite lively as Abrahamson captures something that feels real but also chaotic as the film’s third act in the U.S. plays into that chaos. Especially in that sense of realism where playing a place like South by Southwest might not be for everyone as Frank’s enthusiasm might actually hide something far more drastic that Jon doesn’t seem to understand. Overall, Abrahamson creates a very captivating yet very witty film about a young musician who finds himself under the wing of an eccentric yet troubled musical genius.

Cinematographer James Mathers does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from the low-key lighting for some of the nighttime scenes in Ireland to the sunny look of the scenes in the U.S. Editor Nathan Nugent does fantastic work with the editing as it has a sense of style with some jump-cuts and a few montage sequences to showcase the band in creative mode. Production designer Richard Bullock, along with set decorators Marcia Calosio and Jenny Oman and art directors Tamara Conboy and Kevin Pierce, does brilliant work with the look of the home in Ireland they would live in to record and create as well as the tour van and the places in America.

Costume designer Suzie Harman does terrific work with the costumes from some of the offbeat clothing that Clara wears as well as some of her bandmates while the look of Frank and Jon are much more straightforward. Frank head model Robert Allsop does amazing work with the design of the head and some of the things that the character needed. Visual effects supervisor Ed Bruce does nice work with the minimal visual effects that often involve crowd scenes at South by Southwest. Sound designer Steve Fanagan does superb work with the sound to capture the way some instruments are recorded as well as the level of noise in the music. The film’s music by Stephen Rennicks is incredible for its very light-hearted and offbeat score that features a lot of xylophones and keyboards while the original music of Soronprfbs is exhilarating and wild.

The casting by Fiona Weir is remarkable as it features some notable small roles from Hayley Derryberry and Lauren Poole as two fans of the group from South by Southwest, Rosalind Adler as a German mother that Frank charms in Ireland, and Shane O’Brien as the keyboard player that Jon would replace. Francois Civil is terrific as the band’s French bassist/guitarist Baraque who barely speaks a word of English while Carla Azar, of the experimental rock band Autolux, is superb as the very quiet drummer Nana. Scoot McNairy is excellent as the band’s manager Don as this man who is in awe of Frank but is also just as troubled as he represents the conflict of getting Frank exposure but also protecting him.

Maggie Gyllenhaal is fantastic as the band’s very fiery theremin/keyboard player Clara who is a real firecracker that is very protective of Frank as she despises Jon for putting Frank in danger. Domhnall Gleeson is brilliant as Jon as this well-meaning aspiring musician/songwriter that wants to create good music as he befriends Frank only to realize that his ambitions might be too much for Frank. Finally, there’s Michael Fassbender in a tremendous performance as the titular character as he spends the film wearing this big paper-mache mask as Fassbender’s voice and body language is really the heart of the performance as well as displaying the sense of torment and insecurities as someone that is gifted but very troubled.

Frank is a phenomenal film from Lenny Abrahamson that features an incredible performance from Michael Fassbender as the titular role plus strong supporting performances from Domhnall Gleeson and Maggie Gyllenhaal. It’s a strange yet endearing film that isn’t afraid to be weird but also display some of the most compelling aspects of mental illness as it relates to gifted but troubled geniuses. In the end, Frank is a sensational film from Lenny Abrahamson.

Lenny Abrahamson Films: (Adam & Paul) - (Garage (2007 film)) - (What Richard Did) - Room (2015 film)

© thevoid99 2014


Brittani Burnham said...

Yes! I just got this from Netflix, and I haven't got to watch it yet. Excellent review.

thevoid99 said...

Thank you. I hope you enjoy it. The music is awesome as I'm disappointed none of these songs are considered for the Oscars.