Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Scoot McNairy
Running Time: 95 minutes
Release Date: May 9th
Frank is in fact the story of Jon (Domhnall Gleeson), an aspiring songwriter from an unnamed seaside town in the south of England. Through a series of unlikely events Jon finds himself playing keyboards for the incredibly odd band Soronprfbs. The band is fronted by Frank (Michael Fassbender), a musical prodigy who has taken to permanently wearing a large mask over his head. Whilst they relocate in a remote area of Ireland to record their album Jon secretly tweets, blogs and YouTubes their activities and in the process accidentally starts a viral marketing campaign for the band that results in them playing SXSW. It is here that the wheels start to truly come off and the frictions within the band come into play.
The film is loosely based on Jon Ronson’s (The Men Who Stare at Goats, The Psychopath Test) experiences playing keyboards for Frank Sidebottom aka Manchester comedian Chris Sievey. However, anyone anticipating a biopic of Sidebottom should really pay attention to my use of the word, “loosely”. The film bears no resemblance to Sievey’s life or his alter ego, the head is instead used as a catalyst to explore the idea of creativity, genius and the spectre of mental illness amongst creative artists. As if the screenwriters had asked themselves, what if Chris was American, toned and unable to take the mask off.
In all Frank is a very enjoyable film, filled from beginning to end with genuinely funny and touching moments. Where it suffers is from its overall lack of pacing and a generally uneven script. I don’t want to give too much of the plot away but when the band relocates from Ireland for SXSW there is a shift in behaviours within the band. With the film unable to make its mind up as to whether it is a film about Jon or whether it is about Frank the shift just feels uneven and as a result ineffective. This would be forgivable if the central message of the film didn’t rely on this shift occuring.
Fassbender has rightly been heralded for his performance as Frank, spending the duration of the film’s running time acting from behind the giant mask. The mask becomes quite the study in how we react to inanimate objects during times of heightened emotions, it doesn’t change but as behaviour around it changes, the audience may claim to detect these changes. Gleeson continues what has been a ludicrously fast rise to stardom, a career soon to go interstellar following his casting in the new Star Wars film. He does a good job of being the window through which the audience can enter Frank’s world and also does well managing to keep his character sympathetic whilst behaving like a complete tool.
Frank may wind up striking a chord with anyone born since 1980; generation after generation of people who were told they could be anything as long as they worked hard at it. Although this is true to some extent, it does neglect the fact that true genius is sometimes just present and that some people, despite their efforts can never challenge that. It is not a note of condemnation for anyone who has ever tried, it is more a reminder that somethings lie beyond our control.