A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Frank is a quirky dramedy about a "genius" rock musician who wears a fake head and the ordinary keyboard player who becomes involved with him. Language is the biggest issue, with characters using "f--k" throughout, as well as "s--t" and "c--t." Two characters have rough sex in a hot tub, though no sensitive body parts are shown, and there's some additional sexual innuendo. Characters attempt suicide (one succeeds), a character is stabbed (very little blood is shown), and there's general arguing and shouting. Characters also smoke lots of cigarettes. The main character documents his adventure through social media; Twitter is mentioned frequently, and the Twitter logo is displayed, and there are mentions of Tumblr and YouTube.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) wants to be a songwriter but doesn't seem to have much luck. One day he witnesses an attempted suicide by a keyboard player in a visiting band. The band needs a new one, and Jon gets the job. Onstage, he meets the mysterious, charismatic Frank (Michael Fassbender), a musical genius who always wears a weird, papier-mâché head. Soon, Jon finds himself a permanent member of the group, recording an album for months and months in the woods and eventually putting up his own money to help finish it. Tensions rise, especially between Jon and Theremin player Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal), and eventually things come to a breaking point at the South by Southwest festival.
Is it any good?
Lenny Abrahamson's FRANK starts off with a strong idea, the image of the man in the fake head. This basic but powerful image toys with several great themes, including the nature of identity, the nature of physical appearance, and even the idea of art versus commerce. But though Frank touches the surface of these ideas -- and it's certainly entertaining enough -- it seems more content to squeeze into the framework of a familiar kind of quirky art-house comedy-drama.
The movie comes a little too close to the typical "passive observer" formula in which the main character dilutes the story's power by viewing everything from a distance; he also has a kind of naïveté that prevents the movie from digging deeper. The filmmakers are happier making jokes about how strange things are to the newbie. Remarkably though, Fassbender gives a captivating performance even without the use of his face or eyes.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Frank's central image: the fake head. What feelings or ideas come up around this head/character? Do you know anyone who ever pretended to be someone else? What were their reasons? How did it turn out?
What's the movie's take on social media? Is it ultimately helpful or harmful? Does the way it's used here seem realistic?
Why do you think the characters smoke so much? How does that make them appear? What are other examples of a "rock 'n' roll" lifestyle?
What does Frank's music sound like? Is it reasonable to ask him to make it more likable?
- In theaters: August 15, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: December 9, 2014
- Cast: Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal
- Director: Lenny Abrahamson
- Studio: Magnolia Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language and some sexual content
- Last updated: March 13, 2020
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