Playing music hasn't paid off for 37 year old Mark, but he has came to terms with it. If you're passionate about your art, you don't have to be successful at it. But still there is something that is gnawing at him. Everyone else seems to be finding their happiness, but why can't he?
Filmmaker Frankie Frain was first introduced to me when I requested to review his previous feature "Sexually Frank". Since my review of that movie I have come to know him quite well and have not just found a talented filmmaker, but a very unique and needed voice in the independent filmmaking world. He's extremely passionate and honest, and doesn't want anything more than to make movies for people to watch. While a lot of people are the same way, when Frankie Frain does it it's akin to filmmakers who made a difference like Kevin Smith. "Having Fun Up There" is his latest feature, with a script by Geoff Tarulli which Geoff had based on himself.
Being a musician isn't all about how successful your band is, how big tours you go on or if you can live off of your music. 37 year old Mark knows that if you have real passion for music, you do it for yourself. Unfortunately his music hasn't taken him any further than a job at a coffee place. Needless to say, he's going through a crisis where everyone around him is changing, putting their artistic values to the side and, as he'd put it, wasting their talent to play easy gigs for money.
Jon Ryan returns in his third Frankie Frain feature as the failed, miserable musician and does a fantastic job at it. I don't even think he's acting, Frankie probably just told him to say he's a musician and then started shooting. I'm not stupid, I know that's not the case, but Jon Ryan does pull off the self-loathing character perfectly. He's generally not a nice person due to his grumpiness, yet you can't help but love him and actually want to see him find happiness.
The movie isn't structured as your regular comedy, this one is very calm and focuses more about the development of Mark and the people around him. There's no big spectacular event that it moves towards, but that doesn't mean it's an empty movie. Being made by a filmmaker as passionate as Frankie Frain, you can clearly see that he took the art of music to speak his own mind about art in general, inspired by his own filmmaking. The movie is essentially saying that you shouldn't give up on your creative dream just because you're not getting rich off of it. If you love it, then that's enough to make you happy. Frankie Frain plays a character in the movie too. He's pretty much preaching that exact thought to Jon Ryan's character, so it's literally what the movie is saying.
For someone who started making movies with the idea that movies should be 90 minutes long (because that's just the way it is), it was nice to see him leave "Having Fun Up There" at 65 minutes. It doesn't feel like it's that short, but not because it's slow or bad. The movie is quite full and complete in this state, adding more content wouldn't add anything to the experience.
"Having Fun Up There" is not the laughing riot of Frankie Frain's career, but it's a very honest and inspirational look at living with the arts. It takes the miserable artist angle of it without having the experience be miserable. The movie doesn't end on a sad note, but rather an accepting one, which could help serve as inspiration for any struggling artist out there. Some might find it to be a little too "everyday", catering too much to the indie crowd, but I think it's done with a sincerity that makes it work. I'm looking forward to whatever Frankie Frain cooks up next.