The Hippo


May 26, 2020








Frank (R)

Frank (R) and The One I Love (R)
At the Sofa-plex

By Amy Diaz

Frank (R)

A wannabe musician joins a possibly brilliant, definitely insane band in this cute and occasionally cutesy indie film.
Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) dreams of being a working musician, writing lyrics in his head (mostly to terrible songs) throughout the day. When he happens on the scene of a man trying to drown himself in the ocean, Jon gets his break. The man was the keyboard player for a band with an impossible-to-pronounce name and a date that night. The band manager, Don (Scoot McNairy), asks if Jon can play a few basic chords on the keyboard and then says he’s hired. What Jon doesn’t realize until he arrives at the show is that the band’s lead singer and main creative force is Frank (Michael Fassbender), a man whose face nobody ever sees because he wears a giant round puppet-head over his own. Jon agrees to join the band for what he thinks is another gig but what turns out to be a year-long stay in a country house where the band is crafting its new album. 
As Don predicts, puppet-headed Frank is possibly the most normal seeming of all the members. French musicians Nana (Carla Azar) and Baraque (Francois Civil) mostly ignore Jon while Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal) has nothing but seething hatred for him. But Frank is friendly and in him Jon finds, or thinks he finds, a man who can help Jon get in touch with his own inner core of talent.
There is a lot of gimmick happening in Frank — not just the big head but also the melodramatic band members and a narration delivered via Tweet and blog post. Put together with the band’s occasionally deliberately inaccessible music, the whole framework of the movie can seem overly cutesy, a shooting of beard-having-hipster fish in a precious little indie music barrel. What saves the film from becoming too wrapped up in its own cleverness is Gleeson. Probably still best known for playing a Weasley in the last two Harry Potter movies, Gleeson is a natural charmer — he’s the reason why the sappy About Time was more sweet than saccharine. Here, he gives us both a character we can understand and a protagonist wrapped up in his own little bit of crazy too. B
Available on services including Amazon, iTunes and Comcast OnDemand. 
The One I Love (R)
Genres blend nicely as a husband and wife try to save their marriage in this relationship-drama/dark comedy/suspense movie. 
Also, maybe it’s a sci-fi? 
Ethan (Mark Duplass) and Sophie (Elisabeth Moss) are in marriage counseling attempting to repair their marriage after — as we suspect and is later confirmed — Ethan had some kind of an affair. Their therapist (Ted Danson) recommends that they take a vacation together to reconnect at a retreat where it will be only them for a long weekend. The house, which is surrounded by orange groves, is beautiful. The grounds are beautiful — a pool, lovely views, even a guest house. On their first night, Ethan and Sophie do a bit of solo exploring and then come together for dinner, some wine and even a little pot. Perhaps the wine and the pot is why Sophie enjoys a romantic evening with Ethan in the guest house even though Ethan only remembers falling asleep on the couch in the main house. The next morning, the weirdness continues and soon Ethan and Sophie realize they aren’t alone on this retreat.
Who, or maybe what, is there with them isn’t entirely clear, and the movie does a good job of giving just enough answers without giving answers. What is clear is that in addition to whatever is happening in the present, Ethan and Sophie have a lot of issues from the past to work on. Moving forward as a couple not only requires them to let go of past hurts but might require letting go of past happiness as well. The movie plays with this idea as the mystery of the retreat unfolds.
Moss, best known as Peggy Olson on Mad Men, gives a solid performance as a character who passes through a wide range of emotions while still bottling most of her feelings inside. Duplass, who I know primarily from The League, does a good job of making Ethan, as needed, a straight man, a well-meaning jerk and a bit of a villain. The One I Love is smart, fun and even quietly funny. A-
Available on services including iTunes and Comcast OnDemand. 

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