Michael Fassbender as Frank

Sitting in the afterglow of FRANK, I’m left with many thoughts – but none that feel cohesive enough to form a full-on review. These thoughts are a messy jumble; sketched in conté crayon with broad, fast strokes. In a way, I feel like that frame-of-mind befits this film, so I’ve decided to post something more immediate.

In some ways it feels like I’ve seen FRANK before, but that’s not a knock. It’s a way of saying that this is the latest in a lineage of like films that have all centred themselves around endearing souls that come wrapped around fragile minds. It’s been my experience that such films are usually divisive, which I believe often says more about the filmgoer than it does about the film. These films want to appeal to our sense of empathy…so for would-be viewers with less of that hardwired into their character, such exercises are tedious.

Like many of those films, FRANK succeeds in the way it rises above the gimmick quickly. On the surface, this is “The Guy in The Giant Head Movie”, but that trope is dispensed with fairly quickly, and we come to accept Frank’s situation and move on. It’s not made that big a deal of off-the-hop; Frank and his head just appear and our hero rolls with it. Questions are raised as questions would be, but the crux of the film is more about creating something original than it is about dealing with a dude in a mask. Had it not – had it instead brought everything back to Frank’s head over and over – the film would have felt like a one-note-song, and grated on us quickly.

So while there are plenty of moments where we must deal with “The Guy in The Giant Head”, there’s much more to take away from this film than that. Which makes me wonder why the film was basically dumped by its North American distributors.

After a quick lap around the festival circuit, the film arrived on a tiny amount of screens with precious little fanfare. Here in Toronto, it is playing in one cinema and it’s one of the smallest houses in the city. Why? There is so little competition at this late date, with most of the offerings being the usual late-summer leavings. I understand that “The Guy in The Giant Head” is a tough sell, but surely it deserved a more fighting chance than this. Why not let it gain some word-of-mouth in July? Why not cross-release it to VOD as more and more films have been doing? Why have distributors put all their muscle behind potential award-winners and mega franchises, while noble efforts like this get sloughed off?

It’s a pity, because FRANK comes and goes with both familiarity and novelty. It has things to say about salesmanship and substance, and wonders aloud about the line between meticulousness and obsession. Most of all though, the film has a great deal of warmth and rustic charm. It’s not out to leave you humming the songs you heard it sing, but it is out to make you tap your toes with the beat.

At that, it succeeds admirably.