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"Frank" Movie Review

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Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

"Frank" (2014)

Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) is a wannabe songwriter who sits in his room and composes songs on his keyboard, dreaming of playing in a band and writing songs that are important to him. He has a dead-end job and lives with his parents. Out walking along the waterfront, Jon witnesses a man trying to commit suicide in the water, with the police attempting to rescue him. As Jon watches this go down, a van pulls up, and several people get out. It turns out that the man trying to commit suicide is a keyboardist in a band. Jon mentions that he is a keyboardist and the band mates, after referring to someone inside the van, tell the young man to meet at a club for a gig.

When he arrives at the club, Jon finds out that the lead singer (Michael Fassbender) wears a paper-mache head 24 hours a day. The set is only one song because two of the band members start arguing and walk off stage. While bewildered, Jon is overjoyed because Frank thinks he has potential and wants him to play with the band for their next gig.

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Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

The next day, the band heads out on the road. Instead of a bar or concert hall, they arrive at a large country house. Jon learns that they are there to write 12 songs for a new album and that Frank's idea of songwriting is very different than his own. Frank has the members go out into the country and record sounds such as water being poured from a pitcher. While all this is going down, Jon continually tweets about his experiences (not always truthfully), always ending his tweets with a hashtag, like #livingthedream.

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Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

"Frank" is the story of a band led by an almost cult-like figure. Michael Fassbinder's portrayal of Frank is fascinating to watch. Since we cannot see his face, he must use his voice and his body language to give his character expression. It shows just how strong an actor he is because he pulls it off with ease. Frank starts as a mysterious person, shown in an almost comical light.   As the film progresses, we learn that he is far more complex and damaged. Fassbinder plays him as a man with one too many secrets, constantly worried that any of them will be discovered.

Domhnall Gleeson plays Jon with wide-eyed enthusiasm, almost frantic in his wonderment over his situation. Jon becomes Frank's biggest supporter, willing to continue after many other band members have quit. Maggie Gyllenhaal is brilliant as the angry Theremin player. Her fierceness radiates off of the screen, overly protective of Frank and sees Jon as someone who could break up the band.

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Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

My complaint about this film is not in the acting, but the script written by Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan. The film turns somewhere in the middle, from being a lighthearted, quirky film about a mysterious singer, to a film that is very dark and almost morbid, choosing to make statements on the price of success, mental health and the seedy world of the music industry. This turn is hard to handle, making the film very bittersweet by the end. Director Lenny Abrahamson gets everything out of his marvelous cast and the film moves at a nice quick pace. Ultimately, Abrahamson and his cast are let down by the overwhelming need of this film to make a turn, a turn for the worse. This is a film that is worth seeing because of the cast; especially Fassbinder, who is dazzling. I just wish that the film would have kept its quirky tone that it uses so well in the beginning and without the darkness near the end.     My Rating: Bargain Matinee

My movie rating system from Best to Worst:  1). I Would Pay to See it Again  2). Full Price  3). Bargain Matinee  4). Cable  5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again

"Frank" is playing exclusively at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema

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