Frank (R)

Film

Musicals

Time Out rating:

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Time Out says

Sun Jan 19

Dazzlingly strange art rock pours out of Frank, both the movie, a dark comedy from Irish director Lenny Abrahamson, and the title character, a singer devoted to lyrics about random tufts of string and terrifying litanies that might have freaked out Joy Division's Ian Curtis. Granted, these noises must penetrate a thick, muffling wall of papier-mâché: Frank always wears an unblinking false head onstage (as did the film's real-life inspiration Chris Sievey, a British comic and musician who died an enigma in 2010).

From behind the mask's blue eyes comes the menacing purr of Michael Fassbender, yet this is the project that should have been called Shame: Co-writers Jon Ronson (The Men Who Stare at Goats) and Peter Straughan (Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy) turn the frontman's prop into a potent symbol of artistic freedom and painful social dysfunction alike. Even in the van or shower, the man's seriously scary.

Frank and his surly band, the unpronounceable Soronprfbs—dominated by a vicious theremin artist played by Maggie Gyllenhaal—are bickering their way through an unsuccessful UK tour when we first meet them via Jon (Domhnall Gleeson), a spectacularly untalented dork who's somehow recruited to the lineup. Arguments persist whether Frank called the new guy "cherishable" or "perishable," but Jon is in—and, it must be said, director Abrahamson is on his side, giving us a twinkly, quirky score and Jon's near-obnoxious onscreen tweets. (One dreams of what David Lynch would have made of this material.)

But Frank is too loaded with provocative ideas to be dismissed as mere indiedom. As the group settles into its months-long recording session at a wooded retreat, Abrahamson lays bare the cult of personality through multiple Amadeus-worthy creative clashes, some of them howlingly funny. Because of the way the plot is structured, a blow-out is unavoidable, and it occurs at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas (weirdly graduated into a film's pivot point), where Jon's eagerness to sell out in front of cute, slack-mouthed publicists and Frank's paralyzing awkwardness both lead to disaster.

A lot of this is painfully insidery: Frank plays to the audience that would mock an oily superfan who makes a fawning scene in a diner, when, in fact, that guy is the ideal viewer. But what a rebound—you know the head's coming off and Fassbender delivers moments of heartbreaking fragility that bring to mind the cult music documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston. If you'll pardon the cleverness, Frank takes time to wrap your own cranium around, faults and all, and that's a wonderful thing.

Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf

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Release details

Rated:

R

US release:

Fri Aug 15, 2014

Duration:

95 mins

Cast and crew

Director:

Lenny Abrahamson

Cast:

Michael Fassbender, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Domhnall Gleeson

Screenwriter:

Jon Ronson, Peter Straughan

Movie Theaters showing Frank

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Cinemart Cinemas

106-03 Metropolitan Ave., Forest Hills, 11375 Show map/details

  • Address:

    Cinemart Cinemas 106-03 Metropolitan Ave.
    Forest Hills
    11375

  • Map

    1. Cinemart Cinemas
      • 106-03 Metropolitan Ave.
        Forest Hills
        11375
      • 40.7235,-73.8465
Map
  • Sat Aug 30:

    • 1:00pm
    • 3:30pm
    • 6:00pm
    • 8:30pm
  • Sun Aug 31:

    • 1:00pm
    • 3:30pm
    • 6:00pm
    • 8:30pm
  • Mon Sep 1:

    • 1:00pm
    • 3:30pm
    • 6:00pm
    • 8:30pm
  • Tue Sep 2:

    • 1:00pm
    • 3:30pm
    • 6:00pm
    • 8:30pm
  • Wed Sep 3:

    • 1:00pm
    • 3:30pm
    • 6:00pm
    • 8:30pm
  • Thu Sep 4:

    • 1:00pm
    • 3:30pm
    • 6:00pm
    • 8:30pm

Landmark's Sunshine Cinema

143 E Houston St, (between First and Second Aves), New York, 10002 Show map/details

  • Address:

    Landmark's Sunshine Cinema 143 E Houston St
    New York
    10002

  • Cross Street:

    between First and Second Aves

  • Venue phone:

    212-777-FILM, ext 687;

  • Venue website:

    landmarktheatres.com

  • Transport:

    Subway: F to Lower East Side–Second Ave

  • Price:

    $13.50, seniors and children $10. Midnight screenings $10

  • Map

    1. Landmark's Sunshine Cinema
Map
  • Fri Aug 29:

    • 11:45pm
  • Sat Aug 30:

    • 12:00pm
    • 12:30pm
    • 2:15pm
    • 2:45pm
    • 4:30pm
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    • 11:45pm
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    • 12:00pm
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    • 11:45pm
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    • 12:00pm
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    • 12:00pm
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  • Wed Sep 3:

    • 12:30pm
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  • Thu Sep 4:

    • 12:00pm
    • 12:30pm
    • 2:15pm
    • 2:45pm
    • 4:30pm
    • 5:00pm
    • 6:45pm
    • 7:15pm
    • 9:00pm
    • 9:30pm

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