Apparently, I only watch R-rated movies.
Half of this movie is the movie I wanted. That's a very specific thing. Let's establish this early on so I don't have to harp on it. This thing is a tonal mess. The good thing is that I know how to breathe and learn to love what I'm watching.
In many ways, this is a very by-the-books romantic comedy. Sure, it involves the end of days and the setting is super bizarre, but like most indie rom-coms, we have the straight-laced man (Dodge, played by Steve Carell) paired up with wacky, unconventional love interest (Penny, portrayed by Keira Knightley). And that's weirdly the thing about this movie that doesn't really work. I watched this with my wife and she couldn't handle the lack of chemistry these two had. Mind you, Lauren apparently hates Keira Knightley sometimes and she did a fantastic job of pointing out whenever Knightley was less than stellar.
And she was right.
I wouldn't have seen it. For a guy with a degree in theatre and teaches film for a living, I have a hard time critiquing acting choices. I can point out amazing acting, but I have a hard time recognizing bad stuff. Carell? Amazing acting. Knightley? After Lauren highlighted all these moments, it felt like many of Knightley's choices were audition pieces. Memorized monologues meant to illustrate range. But they didn't feel organic. Now, I have another theory about this. Perhaps the writer had difficulty writing women. The name Keira Knightley seems to bring a bit of clout, so I'm not sure what happened there.
But there is something very strange that happens in this movie. While the relationship between Carell and Knightley takes front and center, there is more to the movie than simply boy-meets-girl. I have father issues, so bear with me. But this is the tale of a broken man. He has horrible self-esteem issues and, like most of us, undervalues his own self worth. It takes the end of the world to wake him up from his haze.
I don't think that taste in film is static. At another time, I would have loathed this movie. It wasn't what I was looking for when I started it. I can see me any other day of the week hating it. Perhaps it just hit me at the right time, but I almost broke down watching this movie at one point. I don't know what it was, but it really hit me. This was a beautiful movie. Who cares if the relationship clicked? It was a bizarre premise anyway.
Maybe I just weep in the digital presence of Martin Sheen.
Anyway, this movie is far from great. This might be chalked up to the experience of Carell as a realistic, grounded schlub. It might be because I'm an emotional vulnerable wreck who wanted to like the movie. The first half of the movie is slabstick nonsense. The romance is forced. But when the movie is touching, it is devastating.
Again, this movie is R.
There is a genre of film cropping up within the avant-garde community. It is the existential comedy that thrives on a really weird gimmick. I'm not sure that Frank qualifies as one of these movies because it is loosely based on a real dude. But the gimmick definitely takes front and center. What else can be said when Michael Fassbender refuses to take off his paper-mache head, pictured above?
There is something quite appealing about the musician narrative. For a guy who has an abysmal taste in music and primarily listens to spoken word snobbery, music movies are awesome. They somehow make me seem cooler than I am. I am ashamed to say that, after finishing most music movies, I'll attempt to buy something on vinyl to give me street cred. This movie really does a number on subverting that expectation. This is a music movie that makes me feel bad about that behavior.
I guess we're supposed to find parallels with our own lives. Teaching a film class means introducing movies that students normally wouldn't want to watch and presenting them as genius. So goes Frank. Frank is aware of his own genius in spite of probably not being a genius. His music is objectively and intentionally awful. Yet individuals like Domhnall Gleeson's Jon find such beauty in everything he does. The music isn't discordant, but it is just bad. Lyrics find home in the absurd, often leading to funny moments.
I think that director Lenny Abramson achieved exactly what he was hoping to. He wanted to generate a little bit a sympathy and a whole lot of alienation. That means that this movie isn't going to hit a lot of favorites list. I found myself getting a little bored of the quirkiness and the intentionally unappealing characters rubbed me the wrong way pretty often. The movie examines mental illness, but not in a way that addresses Frank's background in any meaningful way. Unfortunately, while I overall enjoyed it, this movie will rarely hit any recommendations list. Perhaps it was the aesthetic and the occasional guffaws the movie elicited, but I liked it. I will just never say that it was great.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.