Overview: A young man joins a band led by an enigmatic man who wears a giant fake head. 2014; Magnolia Pictures; Rated R, 95 minutes.
Unrewarded Impatience: Let me just begin by saying that this movie succeeded in making me uncomfortable almost every second from beginning to end. For a while, I thought the slow burn of the awkward social interactions and the unexplored, unstable dynamic were building up to something– a big reveal, a tragic death, or a satisfying triumph. But the end result is simply frustrating, and predictably sad. None of the time we spend with the band members is rewarded with a better understanding of their motives, and the act drapes a blanket of melancholy over every lighthearted or darkly funny moment we’ve previously been given. The ending isn’t devastating enough to be hugely impactful, but it’s just sobering enough to make you feel guilty for having laughed at all.
Indecisive Focus: The best parts of this movie are the tweets posted by our main character, Jon (Domhnall Gleeson with a satisfyingly honest performance), which are the building blocks behind the movie’s attempt at a message of our generation’s obsession with popularity and social acceptance. But the film goes no deeper than these tweets and Frank’s occasional exclamation of his desire to create “likable” music as it tries to balance itself between a message of social acceptance and one that tries to also touch on the idea of how we view mental instability. When he’s jumping around and acting erratic while wearing a huge fake head, Frank is a mysterious and creative artist who receives admiration and respect, but when he’s stripped down to just a man wrestling with his own demons, he’s someone to be pitied and handled with kid gloves. Michael Fassbender does an exceptional job portraying two vastly different sides of the same person, distinguishable by his nuanced body language and facial expressions (once finally revealed). Not many actors could perform through a mask that covers an actor’s most important tool, and he doesn’t let it stifle his ability to create a distinct persona as Frank.
Overall: Frank grazes on a handful of subjects that, with a closer look and a sharpened focus, would have the potential to inspire a touchingly poignant and thought provoking character study rather than an odd and indecisive hodgepodge of regretful humor and hesitant, untapped potential.