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REVIEW: Frank (Lenny Abrahamson – 2014) [Sydney Film Festival]

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Bored out of his mind at his day job and flailing badly on a keyboard in his spare time Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) stumbles upon an opening for a keyboardist in a band. However, he’s not searching online, or through the local paper, he’s walking down a boardwalk where he sees a man attempting to drown himself. That man plays the keys in the “Soronprfbs” who are watching on indifferently. Their opportunistic manager Don (Scoot McNairy) recruits Jon into the band led by Frank (Michael Fassbender) who wears a football shaped mask that he never removes.

No offense to writers Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan, but Frank is the kind of film where the plot feels inconsequential. The ‘how’ is vastly supereceeded by the ‘who’ of this picture. The enite group is shipped off to a wooded cabin in the wilderness to write the band’s new album, and it’s a plot device to lock up unhinged characters. Unlike the Coen Brothers though, the benchmark for this kind of black comedy, Ronson and Straughan choose to hone in on Jon as the desperate outsider and the fresh perspective on the group. This does have its limitations though when at times they’re required to refract everything through Jon and you just want to get back to the band members. Director Lenny Abrahamson stamps his contrasting style on Frank with beautifully poised compositions and when the tempo of the script stirs with the madness of their recording retreat, he ups the tempo to create wonderful and hilarious montages of all of the experimental nonsense.

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McNairy is stellar as the band manager Don, fearful for the band’s success and extremely candid with his addiction to sex with mannequins. Band member Maggie Gyllenhal is an antagonistic and violent lioness. When she’s not gracefully pulsating through the musical sesssions, an extension of Frank, she sits poised to swipe her claws at Jon. Fassbender can seriously do no wrong. Even with his face entombed in this plastic egg head his gestural and vocal performance brings the enigmatic Frank to life. He’s the musical artist side-stepping over the line between eccentric and insane. Gleeson’s Jon is completely out of his depth. The entire film is just scenario after scenario of him failing colossally. To his credit, he’s able to be a great foil for the eclectic group of characters.

Frank isn’t so much a film but a place where weird characters gather; and it’s worth a visit.

[rating=3] and a half

 

Blake Howard – follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to legacy audio reviews on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.

Directed by: Lenny Abrahamson
Written by: Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Maggie Gyllenhal, Domhnall Gleeson, Scoot McNairy

Gleeson: Jon
Fassbender: Frank
Gyllenhal: Clara
McNairy:Don

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