Frank lives his life in a bubble. He’s created a castle of solipsism to create a boundary between himself and the real world, manifested by a large paper mache head that he wears, presumably 24/7.
Frank, opening this weekend in Hoston, has a sort of cool indie vibe that it mixes with a more profound subtextual drama about self-doubt. A top-notch cast includes Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Scoot McNairy among others.
Frank headlines a progressive rock band, all the time wearing his big head. There seems to be a type of fan attachment (like you’d see on an amplifier or computer) at the neck level, along with the proper air, eye and mouth holes. Frank may be a Frankenstein of his own imagination. The fact that the songs are listenable and catchy only adds fuel to the fire that is Frank.
Gleeson plays a young lad who’s brought into the band on the night of a gig because he can play three-chords and the band’s regular keyboardist has just tried to commit suicide. Gleeson soon becomes a regular member and moves with the entire group, much to chagrin of everyone else (except Frank who of course is oblivious to everything around him).
I saw Frank last spring at SXSW and thought it held up well amongst typical festival fare. Seeing it a second time this week has brought the realization that Frank is a cut above most films. And then there’s the music that propels the narrative; great stuff complete with a Theremin for atmosphere. Not unlike some soul searching Nick Cave or Daniel Johnston melody.
Frank utilizes the style of on-screen text as Gleeson is constantly using social media to cover his partnership with the band. Gleeson has a lot of thoughts in his head that we hear as voice over. Everyone in the band has issues to put it mildly and yet Frank is the only one who actually seems to address his problems albeit with his mask. A typical voiceover: “Hey woman in the yellow dress what do you have in that bag?” “Hey woman in the red dress, do you know the woman in the yellow dress?”
Eventually the band finds itself booked into SXSW, so it’s not surprising the film played there. There are some great shots of Austin during that music festival, although knowing the power of film it’s possible that these are second unit shots combined with clever recreations of performance stages and the SXSW registration area.
Eventually the group finds its membership dwindling and Frank even takes off his head in the last minutes of the film. Frank the group is good enough that they performed recently on a late night talk show.
- Michael Bergeron