Saturday, January 25, 2014

Sundance movie seven: The hipsters are gonna love this. Me, not so much.

Maggie Gyllenhaal (who stars int he movie) with Frank
Sometimes, Sundance movies are frustrating. There are lots of ways movies can be frustrating. One of the most common? When the idea behind a movie is inventive, unexpected, and something you've never seen before and yet the final product disappoints. Frank, by director Lenny Abrahamson is just such a movie.

The premise: An indie, avant-garde band hires a nerdy keyboard player.  They head to a mountain cabin to record a new album. All the band members are strange.  But the strangest of all is the band leader, Frank who is never found without his plastic or papier-mache or I'm-not-sure-what-the-material-is head. Frank's weird and friendly head matches his personality perfectly.

I loved the set up for this film.  But the delivery falls flat.  And when we finally learn that Frank is really just a troubled, depressed, possibly crazy character who uses his fake head to hide from his troubled youth, it makes the movie completely predicatable. That takes the movie from a surprising, fresh idea to something expected, even obvious.  Of course, this means that Frank must lose his head, confront his past, and move on.  But I didn't want him to.  I liked the strange, quirky, friendly character that was Frank with his strange, quirky, friendly head.

The disappointing plot turns aren't the only problems with this movie  Many of the performances don't live up to the ambitions of the story.  And the desire to be strange often feels forced. If the movie had relaxed its strangeness just a bit, it would have made for a more whimsical, lyrical film that I think might have been more endearing.  Although, I'm guessing the filmmakers probably weren't going for endearing.

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