SXSW 2014: Frank Movie Review


I’ve been hearing a lot about Frank for quite some time now. I was curious about the film due to Michael Fassbender’s involvement with the film, but I later learned of what his character was that made me more curious. You don’t see his face for essentially the entire movie. Then it premiered at Sundance a few months back and everybody thought it was as bizarre as the premise given to it, and yet a lot of people liked it. I would have liked to have seen it at the January festival, but I can’t do everything, can I? But luckily it was announced that it would premiere here at SXSW, so that made me happy. So I cautiously went into the screening yesterday hoping that the actors spoke English and no subtitles were needed (find out what I’m talking about here) and I saw Frank. Let’s dive into the review.

Frank stars Domhnall Gleeson, the son of actor Brendan Gleeson, who is a wannabe rock star living in Ireland. He has a boring life, a boring job, and everything in between. One day, he discovers a band in need of a keyboardist, and Gleeson is up for the task. He finds out that the band is, well, different. It’s composed of a mentally ill manager played by Scott McNairy, a psychotic bandmate played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, and then there’s Frank, played by Fassbender. Frank never shows his face, and he wears a giant head instead. And for nearly the entire film, that’s all you see of Fassbender in the role. The band is this very avant-garde band who decides to seclude themselves in the woods of Ireland until their album is finished. And then, of all places, they head to SXSW to play a gig.

The film was directed by Lenny Abrahamson, who really hasn’t done much that is really noteworthy, but this is definitely his most high-profile project to date. The film is essentially a black comedy, and while it is a little uneven and the third act is the weakest part of the film, Frank was a film that was never boring and it kept my interest for the entire film, which says a lot to be honest with you. The best part of the film is Fassbender’s performance in the film, which continues his reign of being one of this generation’s great actors period. I personally think he should have one the Oscar a few weeks back for his role in 12 Years A Slave, and while this role is nowhere near as intimidating as that role (obviously) it’s his most unusual performance to date (Duh?). You never see his face and all you can hear is his voice, so he must be very animated with his physical movement, and Fassbender nails it. It’s a pretty bizarre performance, but if you had to see the film for one reason, it’s because of this performance. 

The supporting performances are also good. Gleeson is quite good in the role, and this is the first I’ve seen of him act before, so here’s to the young actor being a little more than just the son of the other Mr. Gleeson. Maggie Gyllenhaal also shines her as the possibly insane bandmate Claire, continuing to prove that the actress is one of the most overlooked working today. McNairy is also terrific for the little screen-time he’s given, and he’s also one of the best young actors to emerge in the past few years. Luckily you’ll start to see more and more of Mr. McNairy, as he will have a starring role in the upcoming AMC series Halt and Catch Fire. And that’s really what helps the film from being a train wreck. It’s premise, acting, and the music, which is actually quite good, and I hope that the filmmakers release a soundtrack for the film when it is released. Fassbender has a unique voice, and he performs a song at the end that highlights his beautiful singing voice.

The film has a really solid first and second act, but the film starts to fall apart a bit in its third act. I’m not along on this criticism, as several critics and folks who have seen the film agree on that the film has a kind of poor ending. I won’t go into any details obviously, but if you see the film, then you would understand. And also, the band in the film goes to SXSW, but it ain’t in Austin. When you see the film, Austin’s stand in is Albuquerque, New Mexico. Yes, I know it’s a little cheaper to shoot in New Mexico than it is in Texas, but come on! But then again I’m not sure the actual festival would be real hot on the idea of a major motion picture shooting during an already major festival. Bit of a traffic nightmare for an already nightmarish scenario.

Anyhow, I’ll wrap things up. Frank is a different comedy that falls apart in the third act, but the film is worth noting and seeing just for Michael Fassbender’s terrific performance. If you’re as big a fan of the actor as I am, I’d say you should go check the film out whenever it’s released. Or you could see it now, as the film will be showing a few more times during the festival before everything wraps up on Saturday. Now onto The Raid 2 for the second time this evening…

Final Rating:


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