Sunday, May 17, 2015

FRANK (Film Review)

One of the things that I love about weird films is that they are, well, weird.  You get to mentally go somewhere intellectually and emotionally that normally you wouldn't go. One of the things that I struggle with, however, is that the weird movies are... well... weird.

Such is the case with Frank, a film written by Jon Ronson (author of "So You've Been Publicly Shamed) and Peter Straughan, who wrote the movie version of Jon Ronson's book The Men Who Stare at Goats.  Both Ronson and Straughan were/are musicians and this movie is a bizarre cocktail of musicians, mental illness and escape.  Plus it's weird.

Start with Frank.  He's the lead singer of a local English band.  He's like Jim Morrison—poetic, cool and comfortable on stage to a degree—except he happens to wear a giant mascot head.  All the time.  Like while riding in a car.  Or in the shower.

I was a teenager when Nirvana's music hit big.  Before they were world famous, however, there was a relatively small group of fans (in Seattle and wherever they toured) that were hardcore, dedicated fans, but the larger world, kids like me would not really get it until they were globally huge.  Then all of us suburban regular kids jumped on board.  At my high school, a local band (really local, like made up of kids at the actual school) played "Smells Like Teen Spirit" a year before Nirvana broke big.  So none of us had ever heard this strange new grunge music before.  We all sat there in stunned silence (and not good stunned silence).   When the band was done, there was no slow clap that grew into a raucous roar of approval.  We just sat there.  We wondered what all that weird noise was.  This didn't sound like Poison or Bon Jovi at all!  Such is the attitude with Frank—the main protagonist (a keyboard player) joins this weird indie band and as a viewer, I can't decide if they are either totally brilliant or churning out complete drivel.  There seems to be a thin razor's edge that separates the two.

These quirky films can be tough to watch, especially at home.  It's difficult to get into a strange art film when telemarketers are phoning, the UPS guy shows up at the door and the cat decides he wants to throw up on the carpet.  However, I watched this film alone (it's on Netflix) and got right into it.  Put the phone away.  Let the cat vomit sit there for a couple of hours.  The characters in the film are not very likable, but they are, surprisingly realistic.  I've been around talented musicians that never seem to get their act together, so for me this film rang true. 

It's never serious enough to be a great drama and it's never funny enough to be a great comedy—but the combination between the two genres works.  The really weird thing is that about halfway through the film, I stopped seeing the large Frank bobble head.  Frank appeared somewhat "normal", which is really saying something about how strange the other members of the band are.  Overall, it was a weird, trippy dark movie and if you like those types of movies, this could be time well spent.