FlixChatter Review: FRANK (2014)

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Jon, a young wanna-be musician, discovers he’s bitten off more than he can chew when he joins an eccentric pop band led by the mysterious and enigmatic Frank.

I have heard so many great things about this film and the quirky aspect of the story appeals to me. I have to say that Michael Fassbender‘s casting intrigues me most as he spends 99% of the movie wearing a giant papier-mâché head. Thankfully, that part wasn’t just a silly gimmick, but there’s an intriguing story behind it.

The film took its time in revealing what the story is with Frank (Fassbender) and why he refuses to reveal his face. Yep he even sleeps and shower with it, which drives Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) bonkers with curiosity. In fact, since the story is told from his perspective, we identify with Jon in how he feels about suddenly being thrown into this quirky mix of people. Frank is an enigmatic figure to be sure, but he’s actually the most likable personality of the entire band who pretty much treats Jon like dirt. I get that he had to earn his place in the band, but still, the contempt was quite uncalled for.

FRANKmoviestillsIn the first two acts, we pretty much spend time with the band as we witness their creative process in a remote cabin in Ireland. It’s full of quirky moments, some works and some don’t, and plenty that leaves me scratching my head. But it’s the third act where things sort of goes off the rails. As it turns out, Jon has been posting their recording sessions online and been tweeting about it constantly. Somehow that got them an invite to South by Southwest and it’s here that we learn just what’s really going on with Frank. The third act at SXSW is where I felt that the film went off the rails a few times, though the finale did reveal more about the main character in a way that still surprised me.

I have to admit that my initial response to this movie by Lenny Abrahamson was not overly positive. I was left irritated and frustrated by the pacing, the mostly unlikable characters and how sometimes the weirdness seems more gimmicky. I’m a big fan of Maggie Gyllenhaal, but here her character seems to go out of her way to be utterly unlikable. That sex scene is absolutely mental and I have to admit, it’s a bit revolting. But the more I think about this movie and read some articles on it, I appreciate it a bit more. Props to Fassbender for giving such a nuanced performance without the use of an actor’s main asset – his facial expression. Aside from Gleeson, who’s got a natural charm about him, Fassbender is truly the star here.

FRANKmoviestillThe story’s so much more than just about music, but more of the creative process, as well as a commentary about true art vs commercialism. The use of social media here is interesting too in how that could give people a false sense of fame and notoriety. I wish I had been as invested in the story however, the only time I found most emotionally involving was the finale. There are intriguing and memorable moments throughout, but I’d say that the movie itself is less than the sum of its parts. If you’ve been curious about this one though, I’d say give it a shot.

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Have you seen FRANK? Well, what did you think?

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41 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: FRANK (2014)

    1. I’m curious to hear what you think Michael. I’m not IN LOVE w/ it as others do, but it’s still an intriguing little film that’s well worth your time.

  1. Not sure if I want to spend my time watching this movie, just like your review, seems a lot of people have mixed feelings about it. Also, I sort became annoyed by this kind of “creative” story telling, now that I’m getting older, I just want to see movies that entertains me. LOL.

    1. Hi Ted! I hear ya about wanting to see movies that you think would entertain you. This one actually appeals to me because of its quirky nature, though I didn’t end up enjoying it as much as I had hoped.

  2. Glad to hear you liked it Ruth, though I can understand what frustrated you. I loved Maggie in this, her bitchiness to Gleeson was great throughout the movie, they had great chemistry… in a way!!

    And how beautiful is that ending song eh? God I must go listen to it now, the OST is rather brilliant IMO.

    Interesting what you say about Fassbender. Not being able to use facial expressions or eye movements to convey… anything! Good point, I never thought about that but its spot on and makes that final song even more incredible.

    Great write up as usual Ruth! 🙂

    1. Hi Jordan! I suppose her bitchiness can be construed as intriguing but I just couldn’t stand her and she just kept getting nastier! I haven’t listened to any of the songs from the film since I saw it but I think the final song was the only one I actually enjoyed. It’s an interesting role for Fassbender and he pulled it off marvelously.

      1. Hehe, I suppose I’m a fan of nasty characters 😉

        Definetely a change of pace for Fassbender, I agree with you there – I certainly didn’t know he could sing like that either!

    1. Hi Mark! I wouldn’t say it’s my fave but I’m glad I saw it. I think it’s interesting that we had no idea it’s a film about mental illness, it slowly unraveled that the film wasn’t really about music.

  3. That’s what I love most: the third act. I always think that it’s the most clicked way to end ‘Frank’; it brought a deep contemplative moment for the whole narrative. Glad that you got touched by this finale, too!

    1. Hi Paskalis! I think the third act kind of *redeemed* the film a bit for me after being rather frustrated by it. That finale is also the most emotionally-engaging.

  4. I love this film. I connected with it as it played into the idea of music and how some are willing to create just for the sake of art and not really caring about fame or money. Michael Fassbender was really overlooked as is some of the songs like “I Love You All” and my favorite song from the film, “Frank’s Most Likeable Song Ever”.

    1. Yeah I think Fassbender could’ve gotten more recognition for his unconventional acting here. I don’t find the songs as entertaining as I had hoped though, unlike say, Begin Again, but the story about what true creativity is about hits the mark.

  5. Abrahmson’s next project is the more dramatic Room, starring Brie Larson and adapted from the best-selling book by Emma Donoghue. The plot revolves around 5 year old Jack and his mother, who live in a small shed. The mother (Larson) was kidnapped 7 years ago and had Jack by her abductor. Jack is oblivious to the dark situation that he ha and his mother are in and doesn’t know what to think when his mother tells him about the world outside of Room. It’s a wonderful book… What are your thoughts on this film adaptation?

    1. Hi ConMan, thanks for the trivia about Abrahmson’s next project. I haven’t seen that one yet, in fact this is the first time I’ve heard about that project.

  6. Brittani

    Great review! I was really disappointed in this. I had such high expectations with that cast. Definitely not a bad movie, I just wanted it to be better.

    1. Hi Brittani! Y’know I wished it had been better and more entertaining too, but there are definitely things I like and appreciate about it. It’s not something I want to see again though.

    1. Ahah well I could tell you but then it’d sort of ruin the experience. I think it’s more rewarding when you find it out towards the end of the film.

  7. This was one of my favourite movies from last year, Ruth. I really responded to its quirky humour and actually thought the final third worked really well in it’s exploration of mental health. A true gem in eyes!

    1. Hi Mark! I remember your high praise of this one and I get why people would consider it a gem. Unfortunately I didn’t quite connect with it, but still I think it’s well-made and well-acted and thus I’m glad I saw it!

  8. I have seen it, and I’m still a bit perplexed by it, but I always like when filmmakers take a chance on new material. Much better than another super hero movie, or an aging gunman, in my opinion.

    Meanwhile, we’re doing one of those annoying awards thingies over at our blog. Don’t feel obligated, but a big thanks for always stopping by. Much appreciated.

    1. Hi Jay! Perplexing is a good word to describe FRANK, it took me a while to finally sat down to review it. But yes I appreciate its originality even if it didn’t quite wow me. I’ll check out your award thingies 😀

  9. Paul S

    I haven’t seen Frank but I am from Manchester where Frank Sidebottom and his papier maché head are well known. I do understand the need to make something rather different than a biopic, but I think the fact that this was a purely fictional story was the reason the film bombed over here.

    1. Hi Paul! I heard that some people were disappointed that this had nothing to do w/ Frank Sidebottom. Since I’m not familiar w/ him, it didn’t bother me but still I’m curious why they didn’t go w/ a straight biopic of him.

  10. Tom

    Frank has definitely received its share of mixed reviews, so I’m quite interested in seeing this to see where I’m going to land. I am super curious about why its Fassbender of all people who they cast to put on the papier mache head — that could have been anyone behind that, surely? Hehe.

    Nice review.

    1. Hi Tom! I wasn’t sure whether I’d love or hate it, but I end up kind of in the middle. Definitely worth a look though. Actually it’s cool that Fassbender did this role and his acting talent is what made his character intriguing even without the use of his face.

  11. Glad you liked it overall. Fassbender was terrific, and I really enjoyed the music. This isn’t Abrahamson’s best film, though. If you haven’t seen it, I’d recommend What Richard Did. 😉

    1. Oh I really want to see What Richard Did! I actually met Jack Reynor when he’s in town promoting Transformers 4 (ugh!), and he seems like a nice fellow.

  12. Pingback: TCFF 2015 Opening Night Recap: A New High doc + Lenny Abrahamson’s ROOM (2015) |

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