Director: Leonard Abrahamson
Screenwriter: Peter Straughan
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal
If there’s one thing that the British and Irish have over the rest of the world when it comes to films, it’s their brand of dark comedy of which there is no comparison. Frank, directed by Leonard Abrahamson, is one of the top recent examples of this and should be considered among the very best comedies of the decade.
Michael Fassbender, as the “face mask” wearing front man of an alternative pop group, is not only the visual attraction of the movie but is also fantastically well played – Fassbender in a role that dictates that most of his acting must come through his voice and his body. His role and, dutifully, his performance, progress and expand as time goes on, making for a story that increases in intrigue as the film moves from act to act.
Interestingly though, it is Maggie Gyllenhaal in the role of Frank’s most trusted confidant Clara, that truly steals the show. Clara is the Courtney Love to Frank’s estranged Kurt Cobain (in many ways), and Gyllenhaal plays on that terrifically, showing that she is not only a strong female lead who’s capable of playing the threatening side of her Love-like persona, but is also incredibly funny. One of the more laugh out loud moments of the film comes when she proceeds to have sex with lead character Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) in the midst of a profanity-laced shouting match. In many respects, it is her terrific performance that provides so much of the humour and there aren’t enough plaudits for quite how terrific she is.
Frank’s success must also be accredited to director Leonard Abrahamson whose choice to cast up-and-coming Domhnall Gleeson in the lead role was a choice that benefited the rest of the film, for it made his central character more relatable as the fumbling wannabe musician stumbling through his life. Frank is also immaculately well shot without being necessarily artistic, and the quick-cut editing style really helps to emphasise the more comedic moments.
As is often typical of this type of film (which is similar in tone and style to Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges), there is also a more serious undertone that helps to ground the film and keep it from taking off with its outlandish premise, another typical trope of British and Irish dark comedy. Michael Fassbender’s performance can be considered as significantly important to this, especially when the film begins to develop beyond its initial phase in which the band attempt to make their latest album. He brings layers to a role that could’ve otherwise been overdone and easily been made a mockery of if it was to be played by a lesser talent.
Frank is a very good movie. While it hasn’t won any Academy Awards and is unlikely to ever win Best Picture of the century or anything like that, this is still an incredibly well put together comedy that presents some very good performances. It is original, funny, and a whole lot of fun.