‘Frank”s Maggie Gyllenhaal discusses balancing the creative and the commercial

What is success?  How do you define it?

If you're an artist, perhaps success is completing a project without compromise, in a way that is true to your ideal.  Perhaps though it is completing a project which a massive number of people enjoy.  Maybe the balance lies somewhere in the middle.

Lenny Abrahamson's newest movie, “Frank,” is all about an indie band which for the most part wants nothing anything close to commercial success.  In fact, there are moments in the movie where it seems as though if anyone actually likes their music, they will be disappointed.  They are a group so wrapped up in themselves and what they want to do that they have even chosen a name for the group that is unpronounceable.

That anti-populist charge in the film is led by Maggie Gyllenhaal's Clara, where as the push for greater commercialization is led by Domhnall Gleeson's Jon.  Somewhere in the middle is Michael Fassbender's Frank, a man with a very large, very fake, head which he never removes.

That balance of the creative and the commercial is an interesting topic and Gyllenhaal and Abrahamson spent some time discussing the notions of success in both those realms with HitFix the other week.  Perhaps a delicate area, both the actress and the director were very open and honest in offering their opinions.

“I really do care that people see my work.  I'm not doing it by myself or in my living room,” Gyllenhaal said as she spoke about one side of the issue.  “Of course,” she continued, “there are different projects for different things, so like if my husband [Peter Sarsgaard] and I want to do a Chekhov play-which we have done, a couple times-in an unusual way, well okay, we're going to choose to do it in a 250 seat theater and we're not going to have to change anything to appeal to anybody.”

As she further noted though, “There are other projects that I'd like millions of people to see.”  She was not, she said, ashamed to think about that balance and how to achieve it.

Abrahamson's view was similar, but maybe not entirely the same.  He stated that as he sees things, “Work is made for people.  I think even the most difficult work is still asking to be observed.”

That is quite clearly not the tack that the band in “Frank” tends to take.  Yet, the movie does explore what happens when they contemplate that path.

You can watch the results for yourself starting this Friday, August 15, as “Frank” opens in theaters.