“It’s best if you just go with it,” says Scoot McNairy’s Don to Domhnall Gleeson’s John. This line not only describes the character of Frank, but also the film overall; an oddly mesmerizing but incredibly strange film. Frank is an unconventional and darkly comic exploration of art and media that is surely one of the best films of the summer.
The majority of Frank relies on the tremendous leading performance by Michael Fassbender, who gives the first comical performance of his career. Fassbender is consistently hilarious as Frank and helps sell the character as a person, and not just a gag. The best thing that any actor can do in any role is to completely disappear into a role so that the audience forgets the actor and sees only the character. For an actor of Fassbender’s fame to do so is quite impressive.
Newcomer Domhnall Gleeson also does a great job as the band’s new recruit and gives the audience not only a relatable figure, but also an expression of the film’s themes about sharing art and the desire to be significant. Scoot McNairy, who has generally been limited to minor roles in films such as Argo and 12 Years a Slave, does a great job as well and gives one of the film’s most darkly comical performances. The only performance really lacking is Maggie Gyllenhaal; her role here feels miscast and she never really adds any humor to the film.
There are many underlying themes in Frank, such as an artist’s desire to be original and loved, the torment that everyday people face, and the definition of genius. These themes, among others, are briefly touched upon throughout the film and while the film never feels like a message film, it certainly has things to say. It’s odd calling Frank a comedy, as it has an odd darkness to it, but there certainly are numerous laughs throughout. Director Lenny Abrahamson gives the film a dark comedy sense that while it does sometimes become over indulgently strange, is for the most part entertaining.
While Frank is only 95 minutes, it does feel that a few scenes, especially those involving the creation of music, could have been cut down a little bit. The cinematography of the film, involving both long takes and quick cuts, helps add to the humor of the situations. It’s edited well with a great score by Stephen Rennicks, though the film could’ve used a few more musical numbers. The musical numbers in the film are all good, especially “I Love You All”, which gives Fassbender a place to show his talents as a singer (and should be at least considered for the Academy Award for Best Original Song).
Frank is an enjoyable though not hilarious dark comedy with a lot of great performances and memorable scenes. It’s not quite as hilarious as its trailers suggest, though there is certainly an odd relevance to the film’s storyline. Frank is certainly the weirdest, though undeniably one of the most entertaining, films of the year. Grade: +B