Frank tells the very eccentric tale of young musician Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) who, despite his dreams of becoming a famous songwriter, has very little talent and no band to expel his creative energy with. That is, until he meets a group of rather unusual musicians who call themselves Soronprfbs (don’t worry, even they can’t pronounce it) and Jon spontaneously agrees to help them record their album in a remote cabin in Ireland, filling in for their keyboardist who has recently tried to drown himself. It is here Jon gets to know Frank (Michael Fassbender), the lead singer of the band who is wild, happy, and finds inspiration in the smallest of sounds. Oh, and did I mention he wears a giant plaster head that he never, ever takes off?
The first third of Frank is really promising. In the opening scene, Domhnall Gleeson (About Time) exercises his effortless dorky-charm as his character, Jon, attempts to draw inspiration for song lyrics from his mundane suburban surroundings, failing hilariously. What follows is generally intriguing as Jon slowly befriends this strange band of people, many of whom he comes to learn struggle with mental illness, Frank included. However, as the movie progresses, things take a sharp downward turn. The humour begins a little off-kilter and quickly becomes a lot darker, more uncomfortable and eventually, just plain silly. The plot seems to spin off uncontrollably until the events occurring in front of your eyes seem completely far-fetched and not at all how real people interact in the real world. At the core of the movie, there is a potentially poignant and significant story about mental illness, some of which shines through at the very end of the film. But the majority of the time, I found myself thinking: “what in the world is going on here?!”
Frank has a few redeeming qualities. Ginger-haired Brit Domhnall Gleeson is a very engaging and totally lovable actor who is an absolute pleasure to watch, no matter how wacky the film is. Michael Fassbender also does an amazing job in the role of Frank, considering he is somehow able to express real emotion despite his face being completely obscured by a plaster head. While Soronprfbs music is out-there to say the least, some of the sounds they create are actually quite beautiful and amongst a lot of clamor and discordant mayhem, there are some haunting numbers. On the downside, the plot is like watching a 95-minute-long car crash, and Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character is quite grating, although I chalk that up to Leonard Abrahamson’s direction and the writing more than the actress herself.
Frank is definitely an interesting cinema experience that tests the limits of “quirky” film making. Some credibility is owed to this film due to the fact that it was inspired by real-life comedian Chris Sievey’s on-stage persona, Frank Sidebottom, who too wore a paper mache head. I believe Frank does have an audience, particularly with those who enjoy very oddball humour and don’t mind a bit of improbability. However, if nonsensical isn’t your style, then I recommend you give this one a miss.
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