What’s Behind the Mask? – Frank (2014)

Indie movie, hipster music… or did I get that backwards?  So this is about a wannabe musician (Domhnall Gleeson), getting his big break when the band Soronprfbs asks him to join them as a replacement for their keyboard player.  The band is fronted by mysterious Frank (Michael Fassbender), a man who wears an oversized, paper-mache mask over his head 24/7.  I didn’t know anything about this before I sat down to watch; I saw the poster that showcases an awkwardly large fake head on it, and that’s all I knew.  Imagine my surprise when I found that that’s EXACTLY what this is about; really, it’s about a man with this funny looking mask who may or may not have Asperger’s.

FrankNot even exaggerating.

If you were to research who stars in this, the following thought would inevitably cross your mind at some point: for a Michael Fassbender movie, there sure doesn’t seem to be any Michael Fassbender in it.  That’s because he’s playing Frank, and unless you knew that he was behind the mask going in, there is no discernible way you can tell that it is him in the lead role.  It’s the kind of role that a renowned actor like him would only accept on a dare or as a favor, so I do give credit in that he wasn’t too big for his britches to take part in a movie where he gets a very small amount glory.  Ultimately though, it’s really Domhnall Gleeson’s story (and yes, he is the son of the great Brendan Gleeson), and I’m glad to see him breaking out in more leading roles, most recently with About Time.  He does a good job at anchoring this movie and being the sole voice of reason when the rest of this eccentric band is raising a raise a row.

frank2I know every musician has their process, but you can’t help but sympathize with Gleeson.

There are going to be people out there that adore this, and I can’t say that I am one of them.  I had trouble connecting with this because it is so loudly quirky, especially at the beginning; apart from Gleeson, I never at any point bought that these are people who could even function on a day to day basis, never mind getting their shit together enough to record an entire album.  Also, for a band that’s supposed to be making groundbreaking music, I found myself wishing that the actual songs were better than they are; I wanted to see what Gleeson saw in them, being that he is so impressed, he abandons everything in his life to go record an album with them.  If the music was better, that would have been an easier bridge to cross for me (and this is coming from somebody who loves the band Fantômas, so I am capable of connecting with weirder, more experimental music).  I will say that the closing song is fantastic (it’s been stuck in my head for days now), and if the rest of the music played like that number, I would have probably came away from this with a more positive point of view.  At least this is different enough to be memorable, and while it is certainly one of the indie-est movies I’ve seen this year, I can’t help but feel that it is quirky to a fault.

Frank (2014) ***

– Critic for Hire

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