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Review: Frank

Frank
08.19.2014
8 10
This review originally ran as part of our Sundance 2014 coverage.

PLOT: A young, aspiring musician (Domhnall Gleeson) finds himself the keyboardist in an avant-garde punk-rock band of misfits led by a front-man named Frank (Michael Fassbender), who walks around wearing a giant head-mask, never taking it off.

REVIEW: After the first images of Michael Fassbender wearing a Frank Sidebottom mask started to spread over the net, everyone seemed to think Lenny Abrahamson's FRANK would be a Chris Sievey biopic. During the late-eighties/nineties, the late Sievey- who once fronted a punk rock band named The Freshies- used to host television programs while wearing a cartoon mask- exactly like the one shown in this film. While some of Sievey's antics may have inspired the film, for the most part it seems to be unrelated to his life, outside the iconic papier-mâché head that plays such a significant part here.

Rather, FRANK is an especially sharp-witted satire of what the music business has changed into since social media began to play such a big part in dictating a performer's success. To call the music Frank makes with his band “Soronprfbs” indecipherable is an understatement. The music is almost non-existent. Rather, the band is like a piece of performance art, saved from being pretentious by the fact that the band leader is certifiably insane. However, insanity had always been a marketable commodity, and that's what the film spends a good deal of time exploring.

The protagonist throughout isn't Frank, but rather Gleeson's ambitious keyboarder, who fills in during an impromptu show and finds himself co-opted into the band. Unbeknownst to them, he starts filming their antics, during an endless period recording a new album, uploading videos to YouTube, or posting on Twitter, giving them a following before they've even recorded or released a note. Meanwhile, Maggie Gyllenhaal, who's the theremin player as well as Frank's confidant, pushes the band in the other direction, with her constantly fighting against even the vaguest idea of success, distrusting Gleeson's ambition, and jealous at the prospect of having to share Frank with anyone else.

In the titular role, Michael Fassbender is terrific, despite the fact that his head is always obscured (sorry ladies). Frank is like a more innocent, musical version of Tyler Durden, leading his not-so-merry band astray with his ambitious art, which is so taxing that his keyboardists have the tendency to commit suicide. For half of the film, Fassbender plays Frank like some-kind of know-it-all guru, only to switch gears and become vulnerable as the film changes pace in the second half, where the band finds itself invited to SXSW after the YouTube videos become a viral sensation. Gleeson, as the doe-eyed innocent with an agenda, strikes a nice balance too between wide-eyed innocence and ambition. Scoot McNairy- of MONSTERS, ARGO and KILLING THEM SOFTLY, also has a strong part as one of the more devoted members of Frank's entourage, and the band's default manager.

Abrahamson's film is hard to classify. It's darkly funny, but at the same time it's peppered with a surprising amount of drama, especially in the last act, where the question of Frank's sanity becomes central. It also tries to say something about the current state of the music business, where bands can become sensations without ever having to prove themselves, just because they're gimmicky. At a relatively brisk ninety minutes, Abrahamson's film covers a lot of territory without feeling rushed or abrupt.

FRANK is probably too bizarre to ever really connect with a mainstream audience, but it definitely has a lot of cult potential, and should get a lot of buzz off its run at Sundance. Indie music fans, and devotees of weird cinema should be quick to embrace it. It manages to be both a clever satire, and unexpectedly moving towards the end. It's probably a love it or hate it type of film, but I fully expect all the cool kids to be wearing Frank Sidebottom masks by Halloween presuming Magnolia (which acquired it) puts it out by then.

Source: JoBlo.com

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3:17AM on 01/28/2014
Will see anything that has Fassbender in it. This will be no exception.

Glad to see him showing off his comedic side after such dramatic turns in 12 Years a Slave, The Counselor, Shame, etc.
Will see anything that has Fassbender in it. This will be no exception.

Glad to see him showing off his comedic side after such dramatic turns in 12 Years a Slave, The Counselor, Shame, etc.
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2:51AM on 08/19/2014
Will you watch a home made porno with him in it? I won't.
Will you watch a home made porno with him in it? I won't.
8:25AM on 08/19/2014
Holiest, clearly you'd be missing out
Holiest, clearly you'd be missing out
10:30PM on 09/13/2014
it wasnt as "art house" as i thought it would be. Good movie 8/10
it wasnt as "art house" as i thought it would be. Good movie 8/10
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2:44AM on 08/19/2014
If nothing else, this sentence was fantastic: "Gleeson, as the doe-eyed innocent with an agenda, strikes a nice balance too between wide-eyed innocence and ambition." Some roles will just never be more than two descriptors, no matter how hard an actor tries :P
I get the impression this will be a bit of a surprise for people who think they know what kind of movie this will be from pictures of the quirky Frank mask. It sounds a bit more self-aware than your usual Indie awkwardness contest.
If nothing else, this sentence was fantastic: "Gleeson, as the doe-eyed innocent with an agenda, strikes a nice balance too between wide-eyed innocence and ambition." Some roles will just never be more than two descriptors, no matter how hard an actor tries :P
I get the impression this will be a bit of a surprise for people who think they know what kind of movie this will be from pictures of the quirky Frank mask. It sounds a bit more self-aware than your usual Indie awkwardness contest. Still, I don't think it's for me.
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7:42AM on 01/28/2014
See here's the problem. Cult movies aren't made, they're born. Do you really think Donnie Darko was made with the intent on becoming a cult classic. Or Sam Raimi was like "I'm gonna make a sure fire cult movie about a cabin with demons." This is the problem with most Sundance movies today. There's a difference between stylized, and cult. Lucky Number Slevin, was stylized, this movie looks like it's trying to hard. But I haven't seen yet, just looks that way, and from the review I think I'm
See here's the problem. Cult movies aren't made, they're born. Do you really think Donnie Darko was made with the intent on becoming a cult classic. Or Sam Raimi was like "I'm gonna make a sure fire cult movie about a cabin with demons." This is the problem with most Sundance movies today. There's a difference between stylized, and cult. Lucky Number Slevin, was stylized, this movie looks like it's trying to hard. But I haven't seen yet, just looks that way, and from the review I think I'm right.
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3:11AM on 08/19/2014
Evil Dead WAS made to be a cult film. The way Raimi talks, that was part of the business plan. It was an underground film from inception, originally only shown at colleges. Raimi built a cult following before finding a distributor & before it was even released in limited theaters. Raimi & co. knew exactly what they were doing with Evil Dead.
Evil Dead WAS made to be a cult film. The way Raimi talks, that was part of the business plan. It was an underground film from inception, originally only shown at colleges. Raimi built a cult following before finding a distributor & before it was even released in limited theaters. Raimi & co. knew exactly what they were doing with Evil Dead.
7:02AM on 08/19/2014
Didn't Raimi make Evil Dead in college? So there's a difference to an underground film production, and cult movie. A cult is something that gains a following. What you're saying, Mr. Moe, is that Raimi and Co. knew the movie would be even more popular in the second decade of the 2000's, than in the early-mid 80's. Sorry boss, doesn't work that way. You're probably the kind of person that thinks classic road is a genre, not a status.
Didn't Raimi make Evil Dead in college? So there's a difference to an underground film production, and cult movie. A cult is something that gains a following. What you're saying, Mr. Moe, is that Raimi and Co. knew the movie would be even more popular in the second decade of the 2000's, than in the early-mid 80's. Sorry boss, doesn't work that way. You're probably the kind of person that thinks classic road is a genre, not a status.
6:59AM on 08/19/2014
Of course Chris would give some art house bull Sh@t an 8 out of 10.
Of course Chris would give some art house bull Sh@t an 8 out of 10.
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7:33AM on 08/19/2014
Yea, fuck you, Chris. How dare you enjoy a movie
Yea, fuck you, Chris. How dare you enjoy a movie
7:48AM on 08/19/2014
...and people wonder how a piece of shit like TMNT can make so much money.
...and people wonder how a piece of shit like TMNT can make so much money.
10:35AM on 08/19/2014
TMNT makes money cause it's fun. People, real people, like to go to the movies to have fun. And it's not that Chris likes this movie, it's that his reviews always coincide with the averages from Rotten Tomatoes. Next time he posts a review, wait on it and see what the average score is, the look at his review. Give or take 1 point here and there. His opinions aren't his own, and he'll give some artsy piece of crap, or some boring ass foreign movie an 8 or 9 just because a couple of real critics
TMNT makes money cause it's fun. People, real people, like to go to the movies to have fun. And it's not that Chris likes this movie, it's that his reviews always coincide with the averages from Rotten Tomatoes. Next time he posts a review, wait on it and see what the average score is, the look at his review. Give or take 1 point here and there. His opinions aren't his own, and he'll give some artsy piece of crap, or some boring ass foreign movie an 8 or 9 just because a couple of real critics say he should. This website, when it was just Joblo doing things, used to be a site for movie fans. Where a movie like Transformers, or iRobot would get some love for being a good, fun time at the movies. Now it's just a bunch of whinny bloggers, and wannabe film students who only leave their parents basement to watch movies to complain about later. I wish Joe would take over again.
12:59PM on 08/19/2014
DeakenBlack, Chris wrote this review during his Sundance coverage this year and it was put up almost immediately, so to say he is influenced by "real critics" in terms of his opinion is just false. He's been writing reviews on this site for a long time (with upwards of 1,000 to date) and, agree with him or not, has always written them as his own.

We run this site for the fans AS fans, whether you agree with our opinions or not. We aren't trying to be like any other site/reviewer/etc., but
DeakenBlack, Chris wrote this review during his Sundance coverage this year and it was put up almost immediately, so to say he is influenced by "real critics" in terms of his opinion is just false. He's been writing reviews on this site for a long time (with upwards of 1,000 to date) and, agree with him or not, has always written them as his own.

We run this site for the fans AS fans, whether you agree with our opinions or not. We aren't trying to be like any other site/reviewer/etc., but rather just be fans and give you guys as much cool shit as we can, be it news, reviews, videos, etc. And, for the record, we gave the first Transformers a 9/10 and, like most fans, we've been disappointed with each sequel since. And, as far as I know, no one on staff is living in their parents' basement.
1:01PM on 08/19/2014
Its not that weird that an individual's score would be close to the average. that is what the average score is supposed to represent, the typical score
Its not that weird that an individual's score would be close to the average. that is what the average score is supposed to represent, the typical score
2:26PM on 08/19/2014
Deaken - I think you just like to troll so I don't know why I'm defending myself, but FYI my Frank review was one of the first to hit RT. I never just go with the flow. Next time do some research before accusing me of that. Hell, just check my recent RT reviews. The critics loved GET ON UP, I hated it. They hated I Origins, I loved it. They hated Deliver Us From Evil - I liked it. I was way harsher on Godzilla and Transformers than they were, and so on. My reviews are my own. I can only give my
Deaken - I think you just like to troll so I don't know why I'm defending myself, but FYI my Frank review was one of the first to hit RT. I never just go with the flow. Next time do some research before accusing me of that. Hell, just check my recent RT reviews. The critics loved GET ON UP, I hated it. They hated I Origins, I loved it. They hated Deliver Us From Evil - I liked it. I was way harsher on Godzilla and Transformers than they were, and so on. My reviews are my own. I can only give my honest opinion on a movie. You want me to give TMNT a pass? Not gonna happen for the simple fact that I didn't like it. If you liked it - fine. That's the thing about reviews, they're subjective. You can love something, I can hate it, and we're both right.
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