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Feature


There are a lot of brush with fame movies, but Frank is really something else. It sets itself aside from the pack with a deft sense of humor and a solid message. Domhnall Gleeson plays Jon, a well-meaning young man who wants to be a rock star. He has the drive, but he just isn't very good at it. Through circumstance he becomes involved with a band of oddballs who go by Soronprfbs. None of the band members know the correct pronunciation of the name. They are dedicated to each other and their music, but they have little desire to be popular. Jon has plans to change that, and posts videos and updates on the band on various social media sites without their knowledge. The band is full of eccentric characters like Don (Scoot McNairy), who spent time in the mental hospital for loving mannequins a little too much.  Clara (an awesome Maggie Gyllenhaal) is super protective of the group and shows it in frightening ways. Nana (Carla Azar) and Baraque (Francois Civil) barely acknowledge Jon's existence. But at the front of the band is Frank (Michael Fassbender), a mysterious and musically talented lead singer who never takes off a giant fake Frank Sidebottom-like head. He is warm and welcoming of Jon, which creates conflict with Clara and other members who do not think Jon's intentions are what is best for the group.

 Frank
Frank's strongest asset is its humor. There are a lot of uniquely funny moments.  A lot of that credit can be given to Fassbender who turns in a fun, shameless performance. Being concealed behind the fake head almost seems to free up Fassbender to be outrageous, which can also be said about the character of Frank himself. It works really well. But aside from quirky characters the movie gets points for having a well executed message about exploiting others, even if it is with good intentions. Domhnall Gleeson is very well cast here. He can make Jon likable with ease. You have some sympathy for him as he struggles to write songs and be taken seriously by the other band members. But Gleeson also pulls off the smug, punchable side of the character when he oversteps his bounds. Maggie Gyllenhaal is perfect as Clara, residing somewhere between a psychotic artist and a fierce protector of the band. The conflict between Clara and Jon makes for satisfying drama and offbeat humor.

The one thing that really stuck out and bothered me was the social media aspect of the story. It makes perfect sense character-wise for Jon to make dorky hashtags and posts about the band, and it is very relevant to the story, but seeing the text pop up on the screen with Tumblr/Youtube/Twitter logos just felt super tacky. The odd humor Frank thrives on is equally matched by an undercurrent of sadness. Tragic things happen, but Abrahamson never lets the story sulk and lose its sense of fun. Even the ways they try and send off a dead friend are very amusing. Without giving much away, the final moments of the film are tonally perfect, and some popular presumptions about tortured musical artists are admirably dispelled. Chances are you'll have the final music scene stuck in your head for some time, and not just because it is catchy. It is powerful stuff, and I can't imagine a more appropriate way to end this story.

 Frank

Video


This 1080p transfer from Magnolia looks great. Visually, Frank is a natural looking movie. It isn't very stylized and it doesn't need to be, but its down to earth presentation doesn't make for the most exciting video transfer. That said, what is here is very sharp and clear. IMDb doesn't list the camera system used, but I'm confident it was shot on digital. If I had to guess I'd say its on the Arri Alexa. You can make out all of the hand crafted detail in Frank's fake head. There are a lot of scenes at night and in dark interiors, and the black levels here look very consistent and accurate. Artefacts are never an issue. I really don't have a lot to say here. This is a really solid presentation of a digitally shot movie and I don't foresee fans taking any issue with it.

Audio


A movie about musicians needs a solid audio track, and Frank gets one in this DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. Even in the opening scenes the surround channels are already being used effectively as Jon tries to write songs in his head. The music performed by the Soronprfbs is a very experimental sound, often integrating Foley work. It won't be for everyone, but I dug it and it sounds great on this disc. There is a very polished studio version of one of the songs playing over the credits and it sounds especially crisp and dynamic. The music is the real highlight of the track, but the movie consistently uses the extra sound channels for effective background noise, most notably a loud concert venue at SXSW.

 Frank

Extras


Extras start off with a Commentary with Director Lenny Abrahamson, Actor Domhnall Gleeson and Music Composer Stephen Rennicks. This is a very reactive commentary where the group makes comments on things as they come up. They mostly joke around with each other, even during some of the more serious story moments. It's more fun than informative, but the audio sounds pretty poor like it was a dodgy Skype recording. Next are Deleted Scenes (HD, 11:17). There's a series of amusing scenes where Domhnall Gleeson's character experiments with ayahuasca, and a long scene of the musicians making a song using a creaky door noise.

 Frank
Next up our some featurettes that kick off with Behind the Sound (HD, 10:19). This features some interviews with the sound mixers, who play a vital role in the movie's success. Behind the Mask (SD, 02:01) is a short clip with Michael Fassbender talking about his role and Abrahamson talking about how to convey expressions of a character wearing a mask. Meet the Band (SD, 04:42) focuses on the band members and feels like a promotional piece. What is the Name of the Band (SD, 03:08) is centered around the bizarre band name, Soronprfbs, and the actors talking about what it was like to play music together. There is an Interview with Lenny Abrahamson (HD, 19:22). He comes off as a smart and thoughtful director, but the interview feels like it is structured for someone who has not seen the movie. AXS TV: A Look at Frank (HD, 02:44) is like an alternative version of the trailer with more EPK material spliced into it, and then we also have the original Trailer (HD, 02:07) as well.

 Frank

Overall


Frank is a delightfully odd comedy that successfully balances a worthwhile message with a sharp sense of humor. It benefits greatly from a strong ensemble cast. It was especially fun to see Michael Fassbender cut loose and play a silly, eccentric character. If IMDb trivia is to be believed, the part was written with Johnny Depp in mind and I'm so thankful that didn't happen. Magnolia's Blu-ray release offers a great AV experience and comes with a lot of extras, but most of them are forgettable EPK material.

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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