2014/09/23

Frank Discussion


I recently had the pleasure of watching Frank by quirky comedy director Lenny Abrahamson. The film follows an aspiring young musician named John whose yearning to escape his dreary workaday life is fulfilled when he's unexpectedly offered a keyboardist gig with avant-garde jam band Soronprfbs (no definitive pronunciation is every established).

John is quickly spellbound by the musical genius of Frank, the band's enigmatic lead singer, and launches a social media campaign to realize Soronprfbs' star potential (ignoring Frank's pathological shyness, which is so severe that he wears a fiberglass mask at all times).

Analysis: I highly recommend seeing this movie while it's still in theaters. Failing that, it will make a worthy addition to anyone's home film library. Populated with engaging, sympathetic characters, and exploring universal themes via comedy based on the aforesaid characters; not mindless slapstick or vulgarity, Frank is best described as "refreshing".

My only caveat to recommending Frank concerns a preconception underlying its central theme--the conflict between artistic integrity and marketability. Though I hold to the observation that being good at art is of little avail if you're bad at the business, Abrahamson (and writers Ronson and Straughan) seem to argue that an audience can only be found at the cost of artistic freedom.

Having only seen Frank once, its contention that artistic legitimacy and popularity are mutually exclusive could be my own misperception. However, one troubling assumption that drives the conflict is the notion that some people have talent, some don't, and that innate difference is what separates "real" artists from posers. The film demonstrates this false dichotomy by contrasting John's industrious yet futile songwriting efforts against Frank's near-effortless compositions. Dismissing John as a parasite rings somewhat false when his efforts to build an audience garner modest success, especially considering Frank's vocal desire for people to love his music (instead, John's fatal error comes when he insists that the band change their sound).

As Tom Simon brilliantly wrote, "Talent is the Snark; but the Snark is actually a Boojum, and the name of the Boojum is Luck. People do not want to believe in Boojums, so they try very hard to hunt for Snarks."

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