Friday, October 16, 2015

Being frank about Frank

We watched the movie Frank, starring Michael Fassbender, though unfortunately, he is not nude in this film as he was in Shame. In fact, you don't see his face until near the end of the film, because he's wearing a giant paper mache head for most of the time. The head is cartoonish, with big blue eyes and painted on brown hair and a red-lipped mouth. Kind of like the Big Boy character except without the Brillo cream whoosh to his hair. 

The film is about this wanna-be redheaded keyboard playing musician who works in an office and lives with his parents. By an accident of fate, he ends up being asked to perform with this odd band passing through town and then joins them in the woods to make an album. Frank is the main dude in the band and the others are hostile misfits, including Maggie Gyllenhall at her frown-iest. She wears her hair in a page boy with bangs and walks around in a silky robes as if she's just stepped out of Joan Crawford's dressing room. She doesn't like the redhead (fondly nicknamed "gingerbread" by Frank) but neither do any of the band memos, at least two of whom met in a mental institute. 

In the end, the band comes apart, partially because of the insistence of the redhead that they attend South by Southwest (he's been tweeting and adding YouTube videos of the band recording and running around the woods and they develop a small but intense following), and partially because Frank is unstable. And of course, like the main character, you spend much of the time wanting to know why Frank wears this fake head and what he looks like without it. My favorite scene involved the main character realizing that Frank was in the shower, seeing his head abandoned on the floor, and tip-toeing into the bathroom to catch a glimpse of him without the head, only to have Frank pull back the shower curtain suddenly and be wearing another of the heads, covered in plastic. 

The film had artful, funny moments. Dan said it reminded him of This is Spinal Tap, the Christopher Guest mockumentary of a failing rock band, but for me, it wasn't so much a parody of the rock band documentary--it had whimsical, unexpected moments (Frank twirling on the front lawn with a stranger) and darkly funny moments (one of the band members hangs himself wearing a Frank head so that they first think it's Frank dangling from the tree), but I wasn't that interested in this kid's journey into the fantasy of belonging to a band and it seemed clear that they wouldn't make it. The last few moments were interesting--when you get to see who Frank really is and why he's opted to wear a fake head, but I am still not sure what it was about. 

Finding your own group of people who are as messed up as you? Using your creative energy to stave off your internal demons? The folly of wanting to make it big? How art in some form can save you, especially if you express it in a supportive and equally screwed up community? Paper mache heads are fun? You watch it and tell me. It's on Netflix, which tends to have some really interesting films and you don't have to pay extra to watch them, like you do with On Demand. 

1 comment:

paddy said...

Frank Sidebottom was a real man. I remember him growing up. I think the keyboard guy might be based on Jon Ronson, who was in the band, and might have written it; now a regular on This American Life.