Take a Drink: during each great music moment
Do a Shot: for each use or mention of Twitter
Take a Drink: anytime characters bicker
Do a Shot: for each shocking moment
Raise a Glass: to Michael Fassbender, what a dedicated performance
By: Matt Conway (Two Beers) –
The Sundance Film Festival tends to be the festival that produces most of the year’s truly great indie flicks. From flicks like Fruitvale Station last year to The Beast of the Southern Wild in 2012, there have been a numerous amount of flicks that have debuted at the festival and gone on to much acclaim and box office success. This year’s batch of releases from the festival back in January has mostly been going under the radar, however.
Aside from Boyhood, which has been a big critical and financial success, the rest of the films that debuted at Sundance have seemingly not connected with audiences. Only four films have earned over 1 million dollars in theaters, with many others being buried with either a very limited release or small VOD push. This is a shame, because there has been a lot of great films from the festival this year. Flicks like The One I Love, Happy Christmas, and Cold in July were quite good and really deserved more attention. The latest Sundance film to hit theaters, called Frank, is also in that group, as it’s a truly unique flick that is quite good.
Frank follows a wanna-be musician named Jon, who is looking to make his mark in the music business. Soon he joins a band led my the mysteriously eccentric Frank, which may not be all that it is promised to be.
Looking at this film’s cast, it’s not a surprise that the performances in the film are great. Domhnall Gleeson seems to be turning into a breakout actor candidate in a lot of ways, with him landing a role in Star Wars 7 recently, and he really proves his talent here. Gleeson does a great job of being the steady center compared to all of these other out-of-the-box characters, but is still able to have a lot of personality and play off everyone nicely. His character grows in certain ways throughout the film, and he makes those transitions smoothly.
Stealing every scene he is in, however, is Michael Fassbender, who delivers honestly one of the year’s best performances. As the enigma Frank, Fassbender shows his wide range of talents. He is often times hilarious, giving a great deal of energy, which makes each of his offbeat comedic bits even funnier. However, he is also quite flawed, showing a sense of fragility as the film goes on. As his character develops throughout the film, Fassbender shows off more and more range, creating a unique character that has a great deal of depth.
The rest of the supporting cast is also quite good. Maggie Gyllenhaal has mostly played charming and likable characters, yet she gets a chance to play the opposite here. Gyllenhaal is quite cynical and sour, yet seemingly has a blast in the role with a lot of stinging one-liners. Then there is the always underrated Scoot McNairy, who adds a lot of dramatic weight to the film in a few small scenes.
A big part of the film is the music, which is eccentric to say the least. The tunes, however, are quite memorable, and feature a great deal of variety. From Frank’s “most likable song”, which is quite funny, to the soulful “I Love You All”, the music has a great sense of matching songs to the tone of the film at various times.
One of the film’s stronger assets is its screenplay, which is written by scribes Peter Straughan and Jon Ronson. The duo’s last collaboration was the forgettable The Men Who Stare at Goats, but their latest effort is much more inspired. Frank features the same sort of offbeat comedy stylings of their last film, but the comedy is actually a lot funnier here. The cast all has great chemistry together, and their dedication to their characters along with the strength of the script shine .
The scrip also features some surprisingly dark and dramatic moments. As the film goes on and we the audience learns more and more about the characters, it’s apparent that all is not what it seems to be with the characters, as each has their own personal struggles. The second half of the film in general is surprisingly quite somber, yet still very effective dramatically. Each of the dramatic turns the film takes felt realistic for the characters, and the film’s ultimately melancholic ending in a lot of ways is very effective.
While both the comedic and dramatic elements separately work quite well on their own, to me the two struggled to connect together into this film, which is seemingly the film’s only major flaw. The first half is very much light-hearted and comedic and the second half is very much more dramatic and dark, to the extent that both halves feel in a lot of ways like completely different films. Either director Lenny Abrahamson could have toned down the comedy to make the film more dramatic, or toned down the seriousness of the drama to make it more comedic.
There are also a few minor quips. Towards the middle of the film, the pacing gets a bit sluggish for a portion, as the characters seemingly get into a routine of sorts when creating their music. Also, the few musical numbers in the film were so great, that I personally wished that there were a few more, as it seems that they were far and few between.
Frank is a truly offbeat film that has a lot of great laughs and quite a few thought-provoking moments. The film certainly has a lot more on its mind than it would seem, and has a surprising amount of dramatic weight, not to mention some great performances, especially Fassbender, who I would vote for as Best Supporting Actor for the Oscars today.