I haven’t been very productive at all in the last few weeks (let’s blame the holidays), but I have managed to watch a few movies. Woo!
Up today: Frank and The Skeleton Twins
Quick take: I recommend both of these films. Frank is smart, hilarious, and refreshing. The Skeleton Twins isn’t quite as impressive, but it’s touching, entertaining, and worthwhile all the same.
Directed by Lenny Abrahamson
Watched on Dec 30
Frank is, quite simply, one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in a while
(to be frank hahahahahah frank, I avoid most Hollywood comedies like the plague). The film is cleverly written, is quirky without being off putting, and is both genuinely thought-provoking and enjoyably entertaining all at once.
While this film about a strange band (the Soronprfbs) led by a strange man wearing an over-sized papier mache head may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I was (like many) utterly delighted by it
(I read one negative review that complained that the characters are too “unlikable,” but since when has the likability of characters determined the quality of a film?). Though it features superstar Michael Fassbender, Frank is, in many ways, a little film. It’s quaint without trying too hard. It’s charming, dark, touching, and absurd all at once. It’s kooky, but it never really severs ties with the real world, and it manages to be emotionally affecting without too much sentimentality or sensationalism (which I certainly appreciate).
Fassbender gives the film’s strongest and most memorable performance (yes, even while wearing the head); the precision with which he is able to convey Frank’s personality and feelings without facial expressions is (like most of Fassbender’s work) really quite impressive. That said, Domhnall Gleeson (as shit songwriter and passable keyboard player Jon) actually has the lead role. He is solid in the film, though there is little that is particularly noteworthy about his performance or his character (perhaps that’s part of the point). Scoot McNairy and Maggie Gyllenhaal both give solid supporting performances; they provide exactly what the story calls for.
Though it is certainly possible to enjoy Frank as little more than a quirky comedy about some rather odd musicians, there is a lot more to it than that (thank god). Abrahamson’s latest offering presents a nuanced exploration of creativity, fame, and mental illness that asks audiences to consider to what extent such topics are (or are not) interconnected. Does it take tragedy to produce great art? Are the most creatively talented among us actually cut out for fame? Is an artistic inclination necessarily a gift, and what on earth makes one a good artist? Where does inspiration come from? Is it found or is it made? While the film does hint at some potential answers to these and other questions, it doesn’t hit viewers over the head with any clearly-defined point of view; rather, it presents situations which encourage thought about such questions without ever forgetting to keep things entertaining, enjoyable, and interesting. Along with The Grand Budapest Hotel, Frank is definitely one of the best comedies of the year.
The Skeleton Twins (2014)
Watched on Dec 31
Directed by Craig Johnson
At first glance, The Skeleton Twins is a film that I shouldn’t like, but I do. This is a movie that could have ended up very cliched, cringe-worthy, and flat-out bad, but’s it’s not really any of those things. Instead, it’s genuine, engaging, and emotionally affecting. Johnson’s film and screenplay strike an ideal balance between the familiar and the fresh, and the natural chemistry between Wiig and Hader (who play estranged twins who are suddenly reunited) keeps even the film’s cheesiest from ever feeling too forced or uninspired.
Speaking of Wiig and Hader, they both do a great job in the film. Both of their performances are honest, touching, and more complex than one might expect. Neither of the twins is a paragon of virtue and personal success, but they are both as human as they come, and both leads convey this expertly. That said, Hader is the real revelation in this film (possibly because he has less dramatic work on his resume). As the suicidal and homosexual Milo (who moved to LA to become an actor, but never made it), Hader navigates tricky waters masterfully. His character is one that one with less skill could take into the territory of caricature, but Hader keeps him believable, multifaceted, and grounded. I look forward to seeing what else this ex-SNL cast member can do.
At times sad and desolate, at others comedic and lighthearted, The Skeleton Twins is a slightly offbeat family dramedy with a decidedly human streak running through each and every bit of it. This film about relationships, suicide, loneliness, adulthood, and life in general puts a new spin on the cliches of its genre (something like small character-driven personal drama), and that it ever feels forced is a testament to the skill of its writers and of its cast alike
Until Next Time
Thanks so much for reading. Feel free to leave a comment below or to share this post if you enjoyed it. I’m always open to questions too, so don’t be shy!
I watched The Fall (2006) on Saturday, and I really liked it, so I may try to post on it soon. Maybeee. . . don’t quote me on it though. (I also watched Battle Royale, but I was rather underwhelmed by soooo idk).
I’m not sure when I’ll finally post my ‘top films of 2014’ post; I still haven’t been able to see A Most Violent Year, Selma, Inherent Vice, or Fox Catcher. None of them are playing near me quite yet, but I hope they will soon.