26 January 2015

The Phantom of the Opera (1989)

Freddy’s Phantom of the Opera a Mixed Bag
By Kristin Battestella

The 1989 version of The Phantom of the Opera adds a whole lot of gory to update the oft-adapted novel. Unfortunately, the convoluted changes to the source sully what could be a fine macabre rendition, leaving more crossed signals than scares.

New York singer Christine Day (Jill Schoelen) finds herself upon the stage of a past London opera house after discovering a lost Don Juan Triumphant manuscript by alleged murderer and composer Erik Destler (Robert Englund). Erik has paid a disfiguring Faustian price to have his music heard – the devil has scarred his face and now the Opera Ghost must use the flesh of his victims to mask his horrendous wounds. When he hears Christine sing, however, The Phantom seeks to dispose of diva La Carlotta (Stephanie Lawrence) and replace her with his muse. Will Christine come to love her musical benefactor or discover his murderous hobbies?

Director Dwight H. Little (Rapid Fire) starts this Leroux adaptation from writers Gerry O’Hara (Ten Little Indians) and Duke Sandefur (Dark Justice) with a satanic warning, ominous music, a creepy bookshop, bloody manuscripts, and then contemporary New York opera auditions before a Victorian London transition. Unfortunately, the framing added to The Phantom of the Opera is more than confusing. Is it reincarnation, time travel, or immortality? Are we watching a flashback induced by some demonic spell when Erik’s music is played? Memories from The Phantom’s point of view recalling his devilish pact further muddle this twist. Though Faust elements from the novel and scenes or characters not often included in onscreen adaptations are represented, purists will wonder why these frustrating bookends and superfluous changes were shoehorned in here. Thankfully, the murderous opera mishaps and quick pace move for the 93-minute duration – the tale remains familiar enough and there’s no time to fully question the additions or the unnecessary endings that just keep on going forever. Evil elements, plenty of brutality, and some supernatural hocus-pocus make for a decidedly horror mood. We’ve know doubt that this angle will be sinister, not romantic, and many Phantom fans will enjoy the outright villainous tone even if the execution of the inserted spooky is laden with plot holes and flaws. Ironically, despite its gory strides and fiendish aspects, The Phantom of the Opera is clearly trying to ride the coattails of the musical productions and includes a disclaimer declaring that this version is unaffiliated with Webber and company. Go figure.

Fortunately, the gruesome Phantom skin and make up designs for star Robert Englund work devilishly good. He stitches up his icky face, harvests fresh flesh from his victims, and remains strong and skilled with weapons as he slices and dices. For all its misguided vision, this Phantom of the Opera is not afraid to bloody it up and out rightly mention sexual context – be it accusing peeping tom stagehands, some nighttime prostitution, or would-be rapacious action. Erik has his needs! Through his Faust pact and filleting folks, The Phantom maneuvers diva Carlotta’s exit early before going out to the local pub or spa for some more kills. His interest in Christine, however, feels secondary, lame, and tacked on to the demonic upkeep as if elevating the full on, killer creeper is meant to make us forget the obsessive love plot. Compared to what usually is the source of Erik’s motivation, this Opera Ghost doesn’t have much reason to hang around the house when he could be getting his lust and hellish tendencies elsewhere. Broadway shade, crammed in horror – the lengthy skin peel reveals help The Phantom of the Opera doubly cash in on Englund’s Nightmare on Elm Street heights as well as the musicals. This Erik is obviously not a sympathetic soul, but he’s not a multi dimensional villain either. He’s The Phantom and he’s bad this time around, oooo. The would-be menacing spectacle doesn’t do Englund justice or give him the layers and depths he is more than capable of delivering.

Poor Billy Nighy (Underworld) is also totally wasted in The Phantom of the Opera as an angry, would-be manipulative but largely ineffective opera owner. He doesn’t have much to do except bitch, and late stage star Stephanie Lawrence as Carlotta likewise feels blink and you miss her rather than any sort of antagonist. So-called inspectors and other nondescript secondary players are forgettable, as-needed plot devices or set dressings. Without much beyond the Raoul name change for Alex Hyde-White (Reed Richards in the infamous 1994 Fantastic Four film) as Christine’s barely there paramour Richard, it’s tough to follow his supposed heroics in the hectic underground finale much less root for his success. Sadly, all of these players could be excised – no name police could have been called to the opera house for the shoot ‘em up showdown and The Phantom of the Opera would have been no different. Critical in the role as Christine Day, Jill Schoelen (There Goes My Baby) also misses the mark if you are looking for a strong period piece blossom. While she makes a capable eighties scream queen, Schoelen is a fish out of water at the opera. Christine should do more than go round and round with Erik in one slow motion battle after another, right? But say hey, its SNL alum Molly Shannon!

There is a new blu-ray edition of The Phantom of the Opera, which is nice since the bare bones DVD has subtitles but tough to see alleyways and dark fight scenes. Again, the head rolling gore is well done, but some of the violence also feels unnecessary compared to the atmospheric blue lighting, red reflections, and flaming effects. Askew angles, the tilted hat, and shadowed, one eye close ups of The Phantom also up the brooding. There is little of the actual stage spectacle here, but the Victorian interiors and layers of Old World feel intimate. As horror, this production design is more than serviceable even if it’s not all it could have been. The subdued palette, generic costumes, and low budget mistakes, however, won’t be as grandiose as some Phantom of the Opera fans may expect – Erik’s lair looks like a standard, commonplace cave set with some candles. Perhaps that’s realistic to what the underground living would be, but there isn’t enough to it for a film. Fortunately, the scoring provides the right gothic mood and melody. Sure, it’s not quite sweeping and will seem knock off inferior to the more famous Phantom musics, but it is the one part of this conflicted Phantom of the Opera that does what it is supposed to do. And oh my, shout out for the floppy discs and giant computer monitors!

The Phantom of the Opera suffers from its identity crisis as a horror film and a book adaptation just as it much as it proves a scary update of Leroux is possible. Had it abandoned the contemporary twists and devilish ties and simply played it straight while upping the sinister and gore, The Phantom of the Opera might have stood out from the crowd as more than a cliché Freddy or Webber cash in like those try hard, faux rip offs we get today. At times, this rendition feels like a bad edit, the audience test viewing that’s missing all its final bells and whistles. Are we still awaiting the real director’s cut with all the polish, clarification, and panache? The Phantom of the Opera is not the definitive adaptation of the novel, and ultimately, nor is it the best macabre rendition – I’m not sure anyone will ever surpass the Silent version in that regard. Mixed bag though it is, if spooky audiences, Phantom students, and Englund fans accept this late night tale for what it is, The Phantom of the Opera can be a fun, serviceable, gruesome good time – complete with the heads of divas in the punch bowl.

11 January 2015


Maleficent Flawed but Still Entertaining.
By Kristin Battestella

Wonder gal Angelina Jolie returned to cinema screens for the 2014 Disney hit Maleficent. Though marred in its mix of youth marketing and bleak fantasy, the tale here remains a charming good time.

Once a happy fairy protector of The Moors, the angry Maleficent (Jolie) threatens the nearby kingdom of former friend King Stefan (Sharlto Copley) and curses his newborn daughter to eternal sleep by pricking her finger on a spinning wheel on her sixteenth birthday. Raised in seclusion by the bumbling fairies Knotgrass (Imelda Staunton), Thistlewit (Juno Temple), and Flittle (Lesley Manville), the Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning) grows curious about The Moors and soon strikes up an unusual friendship with Maleficent – who Aurora views as her fairy godmother. Does Maleficent want to revoke her curse upon the princess? Can she or will the battle with King Stefan destroy his kingdom and The Moors?

Though most of the previews spent their time showing Maleficent’s live action recreation of Disney’s 1959 cartoon classic, the first half hour here is new back story with a pleasing mythos of fairies living in The Moors beside the real world, iron’s fairy burning properties, and star crossed romance between humans and magical folk. As expected, Maleficent starts out juvenile with the introduction of the titular young fairy but grows up quickly thanks to some scary tree monsters. Several elements here are really not for kids – especially a very upsetting and symbolic wing cutting that will be tough for some young ones to comprehend. The absent narrator does create a pleasant story telling aspect, but seemingly critical drama concerning the ambitious King Stefan is merely told in this shoehorned 90 minutes. Debut director Robert Stromberg (designer for Avatar and Oz the Great and Powerful) is obviously a visualist and not quite a storyteller, for the expected curse comes too soon in a film that’s supposed to be about Maleficent and not Aurora – she knows were the baby is all along, but goes back and forth in her vengeance in haphazard, rewritten, and excised plot from longtime Disney writer Linda Woolverton (The Lion King).

Purely whimsical fairy fan service moments trump the potential for serious character development, and Maleficent never decides if it’s the grim story behind Sleeping Beauty or an excuse for a live action spectacle. Maleficent laughs and plays tricks one moment before waging fiery, thorny war the next, unevenly mashing the two themes while speedy soap opera rapid aging syndrome scenes gloss over how a lot of elements don’t make much sense. Who and where traversings are unclear as the narration comes and goes and fresh motifs or any and all of Maleficent’s cool powers are forgotten or contrived as needed. Maybe kids can enjoy the pointless mystical special effects stringing Maleficent together, but this seemingly abridged retelling should have chosen to be all youth merriment or total sentimental sophistication. There are some fine visuals and charming characters here, but Disney settled for mass delight instead of a truly complete fairy tale. With this kind of pedigree, performance, and talent, it’s not unreasonable for mature audiences to expect a story well told. 

Fortunately, Maleficent is an alluring Vader that we love to hate, hate to love, and love to see come round good again, and Oscar winner Angelina Jolie’s (Girl, Interrupted) fun performance anchors the picture and forgives any faulty foundations. Although we never get an explanation of how her name could still be Maleficent even when she was a good and happy fairy child, a jilting and betrayal makes this revised fairy protector immediately sympathetic rather than villainous. The off screen clipping of her wings is certainly traumatizing and symbolic in many ways with well done strength and weakness from Jolie. The simple but touching creation of her staff and her isolated, destroyed abode provide menace whilst hiding her pain. Though bemusing, the superb transformation of Sam Riley (Brighton Rock) as her crow Diaval also provides companionship and an emotional sounding board. Maleficent has always been my favorite Disney villain, for she neither sings nor plays at humor and stupidity. Maybe she overreacts to not getting an invitation in the cartoon edition, but in Maleficent, we know the horrible reason why. It’s simply gleeful to see Jolie recite the same lines from the original with live action perfection and chew on the conflicting possibilities– her entrances, dark costuming, and chiseled design are simply delish. Yes, the uneven writing and direction hampers what should have been a steady hour and a half of character journey. Some developments were clearly not so well though out beyond the Disney textbook happy. The back and forth change of heart from scene to scene cuts the enraged layers off at the knees and at times makes Maleficent feel like a cliché woman scorned. Why does this skilled trickster needlessly bide her time and wage war while being charmed by a child? Maleficent isn’t all bad or totally pure yet most of the frightful, grey complexity feels left on the cutting room floor. Thankfully, Jolie captures both her previously macabre style and good-hearted maternal ways as Maleficent. If she truly is exiting her acting career, Maleficent sends her out on a show stopping high note.  

Though largely pleasant in her innocence as Aurora, Elle Fanning (We Bought a Zoo) is also slightly annoying in her bright and bushy excitement over her so-called fairy godmother Maleficent. Due to the piecemeal dialogue, magical narration, and time jumps snippets, we don’t get a chance to fully know Aurora, and no real motivations seems to dictate her hanging with Maleficent and the whole fairy gang. The audience can’t appreciate her parental revelation or cursly betrayals because the haste to the spinning wheel never gives us time to digest her side of the tale. Granted, Maleficent is about Maleficent, but the pricking of the finger was more suspenseful and dramatic in the 1959 animation and Aurora has very little weight as a catalyst supporting part. The writers feel stuck with the character and she isn’t treated as anything that special – even to Maleficent half of the time. Is she the daughter that Maleficent should have had with King Stefan? Groundbreaking potential here is either vaguely tacked on or missed completely – again thanks to the over reliance on slow motion pans, zooms, and battles over conversation.  

Wonderfully absentminded fairies turned clueless old ladies Imelda Staunton (Harry Potter), Juno Temple (Atonement), and Lesley Manville (Another Year) should have been the only amusing, whimsical, comedy relief in Maleficent. Unfortunately, it feels like Knotgrass, Thistlewit, and Flittle are barely there, shoehorned in to be upset about Aurora eventually leaving or unhappy at their sacrificing in a forested hovel as needed. Outside of a few brief scenes, we never really see either displeasure – Maleficent seems to cut away almost as if fanciful song and dance numbers have been excised after the fact. A film named after the misunderstood anti-hero should not feel like it is about to burst into song. Likewise, further dimension from Sharlto Copley (District 9) as King Stefan seems diminished in the editing room – another opportunity for a superior character reversal wasted in Maleficent. Stefan grows deservedly crazy over his cruel ambitions, and without Disney at the helm, this corrupt king could have been shaped into a superb villain equal to Maleficent in full on, historical creepy fashion ala Snow White: A Tale of Terror. Adding to the male inferiority is Brenton Thwaites (Gods of Egypt) as a rather dorky and I dare say unnecessary Prince Philip. Sam Riley’s Diaval ingenius should have been fully realized instead, but most of the support seems to be written as if serviceable would suffice. Maleficent is without a doubt Jolie’s vehicle to carry, but with the right polish, the ready and waiting ensemble could have done much more to define the film.

Maleficent is of course overly steeped in computer imagery. It’s supposed to look awe inspiring – and some of the world is unique to the Sleeping Beauty designs – but the majority of the visual effects look like every other standard CGI treatment we now all but continuously see in most blockbusters. Magic trees defending against anonymous knight armies make for tough to see blurry action and a lot of in your face messy. Thankfully, picturesque flying scenery, mystical smoke, magic thorns, and flame effects accent the naturally designed Moors and medieval castle works. It’s a little frustrating that even would be plain scenes of nothing more than people talking have an obvious fantasy patina and airbrushed saturation to them, but princessy costumes and hennins make for more tangible, recognizable storybook aspects alongside golden cottages and winterscapes. The green glow of Maleficent’s powers also illume Jolie’s face in several scenes and create a beautiful and intimidating harkening to the cartoon vintage. If nothing else, Maleficent is a colorful picture that still has a cool dragon and a superb update of “Once Upon a Dream” from Lana Del Rey. However, I do wish the movie had used the new rendition’s sense of stalker brood as a Tchaikovsky anchor or humming familiarity to unify the picture instead of just sticking the single over the end credits.

Naturally, the rental blu-ray of Maleficent is ridiculously laden with Disney in your face complete with internationally designed menus for mass distribution and abundant previews of every Disney property imaginable. What the heck will Disney call their releases once Diamond and Platinum are insufficient? Fortunately, the features seem to be intact with almost a half hour of behind the scenes and a handful of deleted scenes that should have remained within Maleficent to clarify character circumstances. Today, however, this small sampling of add ons doesn’t feel like enough, and ironically, Maleficent appears to have clipped its own wings in telling a fully realized tale from the villainous side  in favor of the tried and true Disney quest for maximum money making mainstream safety. Did it succeed in rolling in global dough? Of course. Maleficent didn’t have to be super dark and scary, but it should have been more defined in what it wanted to do – haters may be scratching their heads over some of the direct to video caliber prequel haphazards here. I may be biased as it is my favorite and Maleficent is fun and fanciful with laughing moments for the kids and adult tolerability – but ultimately, the 1959 classic feels like a more satisfying tale. Will there be a two hour Director’s Cut of Maleficent any time soon?

There are some scares and violence in Maleficent that might upset little ones, but I don’t think it is worthy of the “dark fantasy” label it has received. Intriguing character strides and mythos changes remain too sunshiny, but fans of the cast, fantasy audiences, and fanciful ladies of all ages can overlook the uneven writing and directing flaws thanks to good to be bad twists and delightful performances.

03 January 2015

Frank (2014)

Frank is a Quirky Little Delight.
By Kristin Battestella

By chance, struggling songwriter Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) meets Soronprfbs, a band as unusual as its unpronounceable name thanks to Theremin player Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal), silent drummer Nana (Carla Azar), French bassist Baraque (Francois Civil), and lead singer Frank (Michael Fassbender) – who just happens to wear a giant papier-mâché head at all times. Jon quickly becomes the band’s keyboard player as they set out to record their new album, but oddball manager Don (Scoot McNairy) warns Jon that it is difficult to match Frank’s unique genius. Not considering the special dynamics of the group, Jon chronicles their musical retreat on social media – but surprising internet notoriety and its subsequent festival invitation bring the band fame and a drastic upheaval.

Without subtitles, director Lenny Abrahamson (What Richard Did) and writers Jon Ronson (The Men Who Stare at Goats) and Peter Straughan’s (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) unusual singing internal monologue must be confusing to start. However, the relatable ho hum of an aspiring songwriter stuck in small town job and still living at his parents’ house quickly takes over, and Frank firmly establishes the context of its world with just enough onscreen twitter graphics, internal self-referential social media marketing, and ironic hashtags. Clearly, our unreliable narrator chronicling this unpronounceable band’s efforts via YouTube is not “#livingthedream” before or after his ridiculous beard is grown and food is rationed in this quest for song. Achieving a big break at the unfortunate circumstances of others, instant memoir capturing, and insensitive media jokes about the eponymous singer are accurate to today’s real life absurdities and lead to some tender, serious moments in Frank – which are in turn realistically cut short via slamming doors or contemporary awkwardness. The witty, natural scripting anchors Frank’s social commentary, and though goofy one-liners may seem out of context, the audience can roll with a safe word like “chinchilla!”

Where is the line between bad art and musical greatness? If you are exploring yourself and not hurting anyone with your artistic expression, does it matter?  What’s mental? What’s creativity? Frank addresses both the humor and difficulty in the creative process with comedic circumstances and heavy dramatic turns beyond the music. Do we unwittingly manipulate and stifle others, hindering what they desire for our own selfish dreams? Considering the at times solemn subject matter, some of Frank’s scenes are perhaps funnier then they are meant to be, but the self-aware design here makes it okay to laugh – after all, “I thought it was supposed to be hilarious?” Sometimes that’s the kind of the question we ask ourselves in life, and Frank raises an interesting discussion about mental illness and if a rightly inspired catalyst can nonetheless turn out wrong. If it takes wearing a mask in order to be heard in our musical collective or share your individuality with a select few, why is that so unusual? How is expressing oneself from under a mask any different from those phony hashtags and the art or illusion we so adeptly present to ourselves?

Frank smartly gives the audience our window through Domhnall Gleeson (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Star Wars: The Force Awakens), and we understand his pretense and relative normalcy before meeting the crazy of Soronprfbs. Maybe his life is mundane, but he thinks this bizarre band is his golden ticket and we appreciate his excitement at this adventure. Jon asks the questions on our collective mind: Does Frank have a beard under his fake head? How does he brush his teeth? Is he disfigured? He’s from Kansas? How indeed does one explain the abandonment of his job and the use of his nest egg to fund this odd band’s odyssey? The bizarre isolation of making an album becomes a therapy session for Jon. He wants Frank to open up to him but Jon is so into his own exploration that he doesn’t realize how far out of their comfort zone he has pushed the other more valuable members of Soronprfbs. Sure, he puts his body on the line and grows concerned over a keyboard player jinx, but is it worth it to shake these unstable band mates passed their limit? Jon is in many ways a fame seeking, tell all groupie wanting to be the star. He doesn’t mean to interfere but that’s exactly what his not seeing the forest for the trees fake tweets and YouTube spotlight does. Jon insinuates himself into the group and comes to believe they can’t be a success without him – but he never considers the creative expression of playing in a band is not only enough but just what Soronprfbs needs.

Understandably, the audience isn’t inside the Frank Sidebottom inspired head with Michael Fassbender (Shame, X-Men: Days of Future Past), yet his bizarre introduction makes perfect sense in this askew Frank world. Once we see Frank still wearing his head in the band’s van and realize that it is not just part of his on stage ensemble, we’re hooked. One might initially think Frank and his “has a certificate” head is something for him to hide behind, but to him, making music is a revival, a religious experience with field work, recording outdoors, and screeching like bird. His mask helps him to express himself and see through other people’s issues even though he may not accept his own broken genius. Frank has some good points about the awkwardness of people’s looks and how we are perceived, and we don’t blame him for wearing the head. Perhaps it would be annoying or too amusing, but yes, life just might be easier if we clarified our facial expressions or creativity with sincerity and without judgment. Fassbender doesn’t sing poorly at all, but the quirky lyrics and batty, unconventional music perfectly convey the offbeat genius behind the mask. It’s also ironic yet somehow fitting that we don’t know what Fassbender is really doing under the head – being method or hamming it up. The head in itself is a neat concept, but why was such a big deal made of Fassbender’s wearing it? Have not good-looking, talented thespians been hidden under masks and prosthetic make up for nearly a century of film? Fassbender has done prosthetic work previously and proven he does his all with extreme character embodiments and physicality. Technical acoustics aside, his voice is also different inside the head, adding yet another tool to make Fassbender seamlessly disappear as Frank. Maybe more stars should try performing with a bag on their head and see if they sink or swim based on body and merit instead of chisel. Fassbender’s performance is excellent as usual, yet the focus on the actor inside the giant head detracts from Frank’s themes of why we hide within our own masks whilst needlessly interfering with the content, artistic fragility of others.

And what of the delicate band that is of Soronprfbs? Maggie Gyllenhaal (Secretary, Donnie Darko) is wonderfully bitchy looking as she breaks instruments, walks of stage, and pretends she doesn’t care. Clara’s attitude is oh so modern but she is styled as a classic vamp – corsets, bras, silky lingerie, cropped black hair, and a perfect cigarette. She hates Jon, saying he is merely there to press the keys on the keyboard and nothing more. Is that his true, meager role in the band or does her fierce loyalty to Frank coddle the singer? Clara is a tough love maternal figure who contests Jon’s notion that their music must be likeable. She knows Soronprfbs doesn’t need to be famous – but they do need music to heal. It’s both sad and humorous how Clara’s physical threats and proactive defensive of Frank aren’t enough to deter Jon, and it’s an interesting role for Gyllenhaal. Crazy cool and aloof but likable, independent and strong yet inseparable from her band mates – Clara could be the cliché, detestable Yoko element of Frank, but Gyllenhaal creates a sensitive and bizarrely nurturing anchor to Soronprfbs. Scoot McNairy (Argo, also in 12 Years a Slave with Fassbender) as manager “I used to fuck mannequins” Don is also a bittersweet analysis providing comedy and catalyst for Frank. He freely admits he is weird and inferior to Frank, yet Don desperately emulates him in a tantalizing but bitter encapsulation – you have creative genius or you don’t. While some people can accept that fate, such realization can be disastrous for others. Real life rocker Carla Azar as drummer Nana doesn’t have much to do on the surface of Frank. She doesn’t speak but no less keeps the rhythm for the band, beating on regardless of the drama unfolding. When she does voice her opinion, however, Nana provides a critical fulcrum and band perspective. Bass player Baraque as played by Francois Civil (As Above, So Below) also technically doesn’t do much, but the tongue in cheek forgotten bassist of the band provides a very subtle humor. He seems to only speak French yet everyone apparently understands him with no difficulty – another hidden dynamic of Soronprfbs that an outsider just won’t figure. These members of Frank’s ensemble each have their own little eccentricities, and whether a loud voice or a small one, their parables come together beautifully and really sing.

Some audiences may not actually like the music Soronprfbs makes, but the quirky, charming scoring balances the avant-garde chords of this bemusing Frank journey. The locations are also both small and relatable or big and traumatizing as needed – from the bleak British start and exploratory Irish wilds to the rush of a faux SXSW festival performance, bitter motel rooms, deserts, and ordinary Middle America. These adventures can both maximize one’s potential or drive one crazy, and Frank portrays the tightrope possibility between genius and madness across these intimate travels. The nostalgic mix of cassettes and old-fashioned recording methods meeting computerized music technology and social media is also a jarring but parallel juxtaposition. Maybe the equipment fits and does what it needs to do, but other times the musical experimentation Soronprfbs does get scrapped for something more emotional or to the core. Streaming options are available for Frank; however, the blu-ray rental is fittingly and ironically cumbersome with abundant previews and an appropriately peculiar interface. Thankfully, a more awesome ten minutes of deleted scenes, over 40 minutes of assorted behind the scenes, cast and director interviews, and commentary tracks add heaps of discussion and continuing Frank conversation. (Oh, the puns!)

Young modern audiences may dig the offbeat musical explorations, contemporary media design, and unusual performances in Frank, yet those atypical elements may deter some viewers expecting traditional musical style, a completely hardened look at mental illness, or a more factual biopic of the late Frank Sidebottom source. Awkwardness, difficult self-discovery, and curious tunes are a major part of Frank; however, the dramatic presentation remains solid over 90 minutes. The commanding ensemble handles a difficult subject with humor and sensitivity, making for an excellent character study that explores the quirky whilst being no less poignant. Audiences shouldn’t be surprised when Frank takes a bleak thematic turn for the finale, but the conclusion here is must see and more than worthy of any perceived oddities – no matter how you pronounce Soronprfbs.