As if there weren’t already enough performances to praise Michael Fassbender for… along comes Frank. A hypnotic, morbidly spirited bit of quirk that still manages to uplift, while dealing with the deeper notions of art and the internalized monsters-in-the-closet that (more often than not) plague the art-makers. The artists that produce. Not only is Frank a newly welcome addition to the ‘”coming-of-age” rock-narrative, but the film sets up its lurid comedy, its “sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll” fiasco, and then appropriately exceeds these expected elements by becoming much more significant and sobering — demanding even. Frank is a film worth sticking around through the end-credits, hung-over by impending reflection and simultaneous infectious tunes.
All tomfoolery aside though, what I responded to most about Frank was its ability to question (and not specifically answer) this existent age-old curse of whether or not an artist truly requires a healthy diet of pain and anguish to fuel the creative-spark, that once lit, can indeed burn oh-so bright. With these ideas circulating through the film’s baseline, it would seem that every member of Frank’s mentally-unstable, rag-tag group of idiosyncratic misfits (including the band’s own masked papier-mâché wearing frontman, toweringly inhabited by Fassbender) does indeed invite this constant stream of self-destructive torment into their lives. On this note, maybe Kurt Cobain said it best: “Thank you for the tragedy, I need it for my art.”
The implications tied to such a brooding and self-dissecting statement, is something I’ve always wondered about. I’ve continued to probe further into my own thoughts on the matter lately with the recent passing of the iconic Robin Williams. In the heat of the moment of learning of Williams’ shocking death, an impulsive tweet on my behalf would have read something like this: “Are true artists forever plagued by their own internalized demons? You don’t want to know what I think…” Alas, I held back on throwing that bit of two-cents out there due to its cynical connotations.
But then along comes a film like Frank blasting at me to dredge up said buried beliefs once more. This notion of the artist and his or her own “skeletons-in-the-closet.” Nevertheless, to clarify here, I believe there’s an immense difference between one being so utterly and unsoundly despondent (to the point that a person feels it necessary to end his or her own life) versus one choosing to be aware of said lurking subterranean pain from a far-more objective level. A periodical sneaking downstairs into the darkened basement of one’s self — An unearthing of the bitterness as a means to juice up ammunition in creating positive artistic-results from the daunting subconscious-negatives (FYI — No stranger to the looming skeletons-equals-art approach, Wilco frontman, Jeff Tweedy, would refute this entire outlook as being just a bunch of hindering malarky, so make of it what you will).
In the end, the great genuine thing about Frank, for all its obvious niche-comedy at play, is the film still manages to make me have a serious dialogue (with me, myself, and I, and you) grappling with words far beyond just simply going through the same old motions of praising the actors on-screen, pointing out the filmmaking on display, and recommending the overall watch. While this review might just be chalked-up to one long digression, I hope I’ve at least hinted at the fact that Frank aims to call attention to some really interesting (albeit dark) ideologies. Yet, the film also hits at these notes through a wave of captivating sound that (as mentioned earlier) still keeps its audience seat-bound way past the movie’s end-credits, rallying behind the lyrical, psychedelic garage-rock, as if collectively lingering in the aftermath of having experienced some form of transcendent concert-like showmanship. Similar to Fassbender’s Frank himself, we see the darkness for all its inspiring melody.
Watch the Frank Trailer