WRITTEN BY: Jon Ronson, Peter Straughan
DIRECTED BY: Leonard Abrahamson
STARRING: Domhnall Gleeson, Michael Fassbender, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Scoot McNairy
RATING: 4 stars
There have been many films about a band's rise to musical stardom, but there has never been anything quite like Frank. The film is very funny, artistic and odd in a really good way. It also examines some dark issues, such as suicide, and has an important moral lesson under all its quirkiness and humour. Frank uses music to explore mental illness, feelings of being an outsider and the journey bands take when they dare to compromise their style to fit in with the mainstream. Essentially, it is about embracing who you are and being yourself.
Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) has an office job but aspires to be a musician and songwriter. The only problem is he lacks the ability to write a good song and wishes he had a troubled childhood to inspire him. One day, he sees a man trying to drown himself in the ocean. It turns out the man is the keyboard player for a band called Soronprfbs. Jon mentions to the band's manager Don (Scoot McNairy) that he can play the keyboard and suddenly he becomes a new band member. The group goes to a cabin retreat to record their new album, which takes much longer than Jon expected. Quirky singer/songwriter Frank (Michael Fassbender), who wears a papier mâché head all the time, seems to be a musical genius, although his talents are so unconventional that the masses have not yet embraced his style. While Frank supports Jon's ideas to make the band famous, other band members are less thrilled with the idea, including the always negative Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal).
The film does not spend too much time explaining why Frank wears the fake head except to suggest it is a defence mechanism. Despite not being able to show his face, Fassbender is powerfully emotive, proving he is a remarkable actor. Gyllenhaal is brilliant and brings a lot of laughs to the film. McNairy is also impressive, while Gleeson plays it appropriately straight in the lead role.
Writer Jon Ronson has based the story on his own experiences Chris Sievey, who had a comic persona called Frank Sidebottom. While Frank may be a little too strange for some viewers, it does a great job of being both hilarious and poignant.