I'd give this a B. It's solid enough, despite having a few developmental issues. I felt like the ending, while feeling appropriate, felt underdeveloped as a whole. I'd love to see critical awards for Gyllenhaal here, but I have a feeling that the award's bodies in general completely ignore this, despite the obvious bids here for Original Song.
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Let’s be frank…
Creating art is hard. I guess I should rephrase that. Creating art that you’re proud of is hard. It’s really hard. I’ve been there before, when you feel like you’re in a cesspool of inspiration, wading through these ideas that all feel false and feel desperate and feel unfortunate and the next thing you know you’re staring at yourself in the mirror wondering why your life has to be so devoid of true meaningful inspiration. Then, by chance, you see the art created by someone else and you’re just insanely jealous of their obvious raw, natural talent.
But what if they held out their hand, invited you to join their journey and, in the process, you realized that inspiration is all around you and that you, like them, are capable of anything.
‘Frank’ unfolds kind of like that.
When the film starts, we are introduced to young Jon Burroughs. He’s an aspiring singer/songwriter trying to find inspiration in his boring life. He has no troubles, and for Jon, troubles obviously equal emotion, which in turn trickles into genius musicality. Disillusioned by his inability to write anything profound, he finds himself putty in the hands of Frank, a local musician hiding from the world under a large paper head. After the keyboardist for Frank’s band (whose name no one knows how to pronounce) is arrested, Jon is brought on board and immediately finds himself in an oddly dysfunctional family full of overprotective girlfriends and former mental patients. But, this is art, and in this environment Jon has found an avenue to create art, to feed of those with raw talent (or so he perceives) and to openly digest that talent, and so Jon offers everything he has, emotionally, creatively and financially, to see his ultimate dream of fame, fortune and relevance come to fruition.
But in the process, he could be damaging the very people he looks up to.
‘Frank’ is a very odd tale of two very different men who share similar passions as they navigate the avenue of their profession. With Jon’s obvious ambition taking center stage, he almost rots out the belly of passion that lies in Frank’s own creativity. These are men who share a dream but don’t necessarily share a goal. Sometimes, we are blinded by our own passion to such a degree that we don’t see how it can differ or even damage those around us.
While ‘Frank’ loses footing, like in making these themes feel rooted as opposed to merely props, it does make up for a lot with sharp dialog, clever pacing and a rich ensemble. While the film doesn’t always align its thoughts properly, it stages them well enough to keep us completely focused on the outcome. The cast is really well formed, with the exception of the lead, Domhnall Gleeson, who is just kind of there. He isn’t bad, but he doesn’t really do anything of real note. The supporting cast is rather delicious though. Scoot McNairy is like a moral compass who cuts through the film with a sharp knife, delivering a chilling portrait of emotion that hits so hard when his final scene comes. Michael Fassbender acts through a mask with such richness, so much life, that his final scenes feel almost stilted due to his lack of oversized headwear. He just exudes such confidence while completely covered up. For me, the real standout here is Maggie Gyllenhaal. When we first see her, my first thought was, “man, she’s aged.” Her face holds so many creases, so many signs of maturity that she almost felt out of place in this sea of what appeared to be budding talent and yet it is his mature presence that anchors the film so brilliantly. Her silent yet assertive concerns etch out a backstory and genuine quality that was needed to make this film hit the marks it set for itself.
‘Frank’ isn’t a perfect composition, but it is an intriguing one, and one that certainly rewards the viewer.