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February 3, 2016

Frank (2014)
Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Actors: Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Fassbender

Frank-Sidebottom-film-still-770-301x169.jpg (301×169)

Synopsis: Joe (Domhnall Gleeson), a suburban homeboy with dreams of becoming a songwriter, is fast-tracked into a position within an avant garde band led by the mask-wearing, Frank (Michael Fassbender), when their keyboardist is taken ill before a gig….

Review: After the slightly more conventional and dramaturgically centred works of Adam and Paul and What Richard Did, Lenny Abrahamson returns with this witty, intuitively cartoonish parable on the twin themes of individuality and creativity. Dramatising lonely, suburban bedroom artist, Joe, and his sudden ascension into the position as keyboardist for a hugely eccentric touring American band (replete with the eponymous ‘Frank’ – the lead singer permanently encased behind a bulbous, papier maché mask), Abrahamson makes such light, subtle work of this film’s potentially stodgy moral.

What’s clever about the underlying weight of Abrahamson’s tone, is that it’s so smooth and deadpan it takes a while to assimilate just how unexceptional and conformist Joe actually is. His early gauche attempts at songwriting, at rebellion against his suburban neighbourhood, and his gradual move to centre the band with a more mainstream sensibility seem initially more endearing and buffoonish than sinister – especially in his contemporary obsession with blithe updates on Twitter and his submission to the tyranny of ‘followers’, ‘views’ and ‘content’.

As Joe slinks away at the end, clearly not wanted in his band’s moving reunion as the non-conformist, ragtag bunch they’ve always wanted to be, the moral undertow of the film hits you. In many ways, it reminded me of David Mackenzie’s underrated and loosely similar The Last Great Wilderness, another story about troubled individuals undergoing a strange journey of transformation in the libertarian, celtic wilds. (February 2016)

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