Hiding Michael Fassbender’s face inside a papier-mâché head for potentially an entire movie might seem like a silly idea and a bit of a gimmick, but don’t let appearances fool you. Frank is one of the most unique and brilliantly original movies this year, and the decision to cover up Fassbender only makes for a more free spirited and energetic performance from the talented star.
Written by Jon Ronson, Frank is loosely based on his own experiences of gigging with enigmatic frontman Frank Sidebottom, a musical oddity that really did wear that head all of the time.
Domhnall Gleeson takes on the role of Jon, a wannabe musician saddled with a mundane job and someone whose lack of talent is evident from his hapless attempts to compose a hit record. Wallowing in his own self pity and riddled with insecurities, he doesn’t seem deserving of a career in the music industry, until fate intervenes. A chance encounter at the beach with a volatile and somewhat chaotic band with a name no one can pronounce, sees him recruited into the fold as a keyboard player.
Unfortunately Soronprfbs (yes, really. Totally unprounceable!) are a scattered bunch: Whether it be their enigmatic frontman Frank, the furious and volatile Clara (Gyllenhaal) or the wholly unpredictable Don (McNairy), the band are put together like a dysfunctional family; a mix-track of personality and charisma. Jon joins them on a retreat to rural Ireland so that they can perfect their sound and be free to concentrate on their perceived musical genius.
Frank is hard to pin down to any one particular genre, and it certainly wont be to everyone’s taste, but director Lenny Abrahamson has put together a peculiar pleasure; oft times outrageously funny, it then treads a more sorrowful path as we start to see the band come apart at the seams. The performances are spot on, and obvious mention must go to Fassbender, who delivers a carefree, charismatic and charged performance – all wild gestures and distinctive voice – that skilfully captures the troubled singer’s many moods.
The script shows great insight into the eccentricities and frustrations of the creative process and it’s Gleeson’s Jon that at times feels like an anchor in a storm trying to hold the group together and keep the fractured personalities from self destructing.
Frank is a story of musical chaos and mental instability that’s often hilarious and at times really quite moving. It is a story about the power and freedom of music that hits all the right notes, but it is also a story of friendship and the crazy journeys those friendships sometimes take us on in life.
(Images courtesy Sundance, Collider, Tumblr)