Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Domhnall Gleeson, Michael Fassbender, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Scoot McNairy, Francois Civil, Carla Azar, Tess Harper, Bruce McIntosh, Haley Derryberry, Lauren Poole
Written by: Jon Ronson, Peter Straughan
Directed by: Lenny Abrahamson
MPAA Rating: R for language and some sexual content
Running Time: 95
Date: 08/15/2014
IMDB

Frank (2014)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Head Case

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Lenny Abrahamson's Frank starts off with a strong idea, the image of the man in the fake head. This basic, but powerful image toys with several great themes, including the nature of identity, the nature of physical appearance, or even themes of art versus commerce. But though Frank touches the surface of these ideas, and it's certainly entertaining enough, it seems more content to squeeze into the framework of a familiar kind of quirky, art-house comedy-drama than to dig much deeper.

Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) wants to be a songwriter but doesn't seem to have much luck. One day he witnesses an attempted suicide by a keyboard player in a visiting band. The band needs a new one, and Jon gets the job. Onstage, he meets the mysterious, charismatic Frank (Michael Fassbender), a musical genius who always wears a weird, papier-mâché head. Soon, he finds himself a permanent member, recording an album for months and months in the woods, and eventually putting up his own money to help finish it. Tensions rise, especially between Jon and theremin player Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal), and eventually things come to a breaking point at the South by Southwest festival.

The movie comes a little too close to the typical "passive observer" formula (Almost Famous, Me and Orson Welles, etc.) in which the main character dilutes the story's power by viewing everything from a distance; he also has a kind of naiveté that holds the movie back. It can't make any profound discoveries if it's taking time making all the expected ones. Ultimately, Frank is happier making jokes about how strange things are to the newbie.

Remarkably though, Michael Fassbender gives a captivating performance even without the use of his face and eyes.

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