Jon, a young wanna-be musician, discovers he’s bitten off more than he can chew when he joins an eccentric pop band led by the mysterious and enigmatic Frank.
‘Frank’ is an independent comedy directed by Lenny Abrahamson, and loosely inspired by the live of Mancunian comedian Frank Sievey, and his alter ego Frank Sidebottom, who went around wearing a giant papier mache head. The comparisons stop there, as this film has essentially taken the concept of the papier mache head and built a film round it. The early parts of the film are pretty promising, as we are introduced to Domhnall Gleeson’s protagonist, Jon, a wannabe musician with very little talent. The scenes of him walking down the street trying to generate song ideas in his head, and his early twitter updates (which flash up on the screen), are very funny, as well as the best gag involving a Madness song. The problems, for me, begin when he is introduced to a band called ‘The Soronprfbs’ and their enigmatic lead singer Frank (Michael Fassbender), who never removes his papier mache head.
After inadvertently joining the band, we spend the biggest proportion of the film in a cottage in the countryside where they try to record an album. There are some funny moments here, but they’re too far and few in between, and there’s too much meandering going on for this to get truly interesting. Gleeson is very good in the lead role, but he’s not aided by a script that values weirdness over any semblance of momentum, and even a trip to the SXSW festival in Texas fails to liven things up. The film wants to tell a story about mental illness, but it only confronts this in the final few minutes of the film, and whilst this presents Fassbender an opportunity to shine, it doesn’t really ring true with how the rest of the film unfolded.
Fassbender himself is excellent at the physical comedy required to play a character who spends the film with a papier mache head, with some fun to be had when he tries to create a ‘likable’ song and when he attempts to stop the band’s manager from killing himself. The rest of the cast are too distant and cold to leave much of an impression – Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Clara is probably given the most airtime but outwith one memorable encounter with Jon, she’s a cypher more than she is a character. I’m genuinely baffled at the strong critical reception for this film – it’s clearly meant as an ode to weird musicians but that itself doesn’t make for good entertainment, and despite some strong moments, the film doesn’t elevate itself beyond boredom often enough. Disappointing
Directed By: Lenny Abrahamson
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Scoot McNairy