It’s always fun when you find an unexpected gem on Netflix. I’m not talking about the films you probably should have seen. I’m not talking about the mainstream films you hear about on daytime talk shows. I’m talking about the movies that come out of the left field, the movies that get weird and stay weird. These are the movies you press play on because you’re in an anything-goes mood and think: “Fuck it. I don’t care if this is going to be good. Let’s find out what this is all about”. ‘Frank’ is that kind of movie, and if you’re looking to get into an outlandishly eccentric, wild ride across the silver screen (or the smaller screen of your laptop or TV), this is essential viewing.
‘Frank’ starts out with an unassuming boy, Jon, who loves music and simply wants to find his place in the world. Jon, played by budding star Domhnall Gleeson (Ex Machina), fatefully comes across a once in a lifetime opportunity one day when he witnesses a man drowning himself at the beach, whilst said stranger’s band watches on. Down a keyboard player, the synth-pop band meet Jon, who happens to be a keyboard player! Oh my, what a coincidence! Reluctantly the band agrees to let Jon join in on a gig later that night, which absolutely bombs, much to Jon’s chagrin. Nevertheless, the band take Jon out to a cabin in the woods where they attempt to record their first album, over the course of a long, trying year. All the while, Jon blogs about what’s happening with the band and builds a bit of buzz for the wildly zany bunch. As the movie progresses, the band goes through the usual trials and tribulations of a pop group, culminating with their big break at SXSW.
What made this film both hilarious and terrifyingly bizarre are the band’s characters and their curious dynamic together. Jon is a rather meek, artless keyboardist who pisses off the rest of the band with his lack of sophistication, all the while realising he’s delved into a wacky world with a weird bunch. Frank is the peculiar lead singer who wears a giant Plaster of Paris head, similar to DeadMau5, to hide his hideous facial scars. It’s actually Michael Fassbender under there, proving he doesn’t need his chiselled good looks to get ahead. Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal) plays a home-rigged synthesizer, and absolutely loathes Jon and resents his existence in the band, continuously making dreadful threats towards him. Then there is Don, with his potential mental retardation and affinity for mannequin-sex, delivering the strange to seemingly normal everyday conversations. All these maniacs, and the two Frenchies, blend together with a chemistry that would make Bill Nye blush.
In conclusion, there’s only one reason why you would ever watch ‘Frank’ – unless you’re a diehard film junkie like me – because you want to get weird. If you’re only here for big, blockbuster cinema, then ‘Frank’ is unequivocally not for you. Maybe you can tell me how hilarious ‘Pixels’ was though. ‘Frank’ goes to a freakishly aberrant place that is not easily accessible on one’s own. It finds a happy medium, vacillating between comfortably sane and raving lunacy at a moment’s notice. ‘Frank’ may not be everyone’s idea of funny, but it sets up the punchline in a way that will make your hackles rise, and that was certainly amusing to me.
Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal