Bluff City, Kansas

Frank

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Director: Lenny Abrahamson

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Domhnall Gleeson. Scoot McNairy, Francois Civil, Tess Harper

Director Lenny Abrahamson’s quirky film Frank which premiered at the Durban International Film Festival examines the pressures of belonging to a rock band and the celebrity status attached to its lead singer. The fact that this lead singer Frank wears a giant false head for three quarters of the film is both alienating and annoying and serves its point about the underlying pressures of mounting celebrity facing a bands lead singer or frontman. Take Adam Levine of Maroon 5 or Harry Styles from One Direction for example. Except with these bands unlike Frank’s bands obscure name, at least the music is palatable, not to mention commercially viable.

Frank as a film was so bizarre and utterly random as the narrative follows Jon played by Domhnall Gleeson (Anna Karenina, Dredd, True Grit), son of Irish actor Brendan Gleeson, an aspiring songwriter who becomes the keyboardist and journeys with the band from a remote Irish location to the hippie South by South West music concert in Austin Texas. The band members are all clearly deranged and part of some grand lunatic fringe reinforced by the irrepressible Clara, wonderfully played by Maggie Gyllenhaal (Hysteria) and by the lead singer Frank played by Fassbender, which clearly begs the question what was he thinking after being attached to such prestigious films as 12 Years a Slave, Shame and Jane Eyre.

Although parts of the film are hilarious and very funny, other parts are equally irritating and stupid which just goes to show how Youtube got such a massive following so quickly. Post any ridiculous video online as a social media experiment and there will always be a plethora of bored American teenagers waiting to watch it on Youtube. Then maybe that is the point of this film.

Only towards the films end are explanations given as to why the lead singer is wearing this massive false head as seen in the poster after Jon tracks him down to his parent’s home in Bluff City, Kansas and Frank’s mother played by indie star Tess Harper explains the singers childhood trauma which lead to some deviant form of mental obsession.

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Frank is well executed as a film about band members on the road, but too bizarre to be taken seriously and lacks the visual punch of Paolo Sorrento’s spectacularly weird road trip film This Must Be the Place. Viewers will differ in opinion regarding Frank, as there was much laughter coming from the cinema auditorium at a DIFF http://www.durbanfilmfest.co.za/ screening.

Director Lenny Abrahamson’s Frank will have a very limited appeal, not helped by the onscreen presence (or lack there of) of Gyllenhaal and Fassbender, whose chemistry together is pointlessly obliterated and nullified by a giant false head. Frank will definitely not be everyone’s cup of tea, but will have comic appeal for those that appreciate deadpan humour and the effortless blending of banal social media.

 

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