Director: Lenny Abrahamson.
Screenplay: Jon Ronson, Peter Straughan.
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Scoot McNairy, Francois Civil, Carla Azar, Tess Harper.
“With all his issues, Frank is the 100% sanest cat I’ve ever met.”
With the exception of Matthew McConaughey and his outstandingly brave career choices of late, there are few actors who have been as consistent or interesting to watch as Michael Fassbender. After the much (and unfairly) maligned The Counselor and a thoroughly deserved Oscar nomination for 12 Years a Slave, Fassbender’s decision to pop on a papier-mâché head and remain unseen for almost the entirety of an independent, oddball comedy is certainly an interesting choice. However, it’s a good one and proves that his ability to spot a unique and worthwhile project is thoroughly intact.
Jon Burroughs (Domhnall Gleeson) is a young aspiring musician who luckily gets a chance to play keyboard with US band The Soronprfbs led by frontman Frank (Michael Fassbender). However, Frank is a very mysterious and enigmatic person and Jon finds himself involved in something he doesn’t fully understand.
Many viewers will probably be unaware of director Lenny Abrahamson but those in the the know will no doubt be aware of his unseen little Irish gem Adam & Paul. If not, I implore you to check it out. It’s a marvellously offbeat tragicomedy that shares many of it’s themes with Frank and shows that Abrahamson has a knack for eccentric and original filmmaking. Much like Adam & Paul, the characters of Frank are social misfits, living on the periphery of the norm and struggling to connect in a world that’s not very inviting to them. As well as the array of eccentric oddballs on display, the beauty and enjoyment of the film lies in the mystery of it’s titular character and even though Fassbender is masked under a massive, papier-mâché bonce, he still manages to bring humour and an intriguing depth to the role and leaves you questioning whether Frank is a non-conformist musical genius or a fragile, would-be artist with mental health problems. In juggling the psyche of this man, we are treated to a film with genuinely hilarious moments coupled with some finely balanced pathos.
Rounding out the cast of delightful oddities we have strong performances across the board: Domhnall (son of Brendan) Gleeson yet again proves his worth in an ever increasing list of good roles while Scoot McNairy and, the always excellent, Maggie Gyllenhaal deliver yet more welcome eccentricity amidst the mayhem. The film works primarily on these appealing characters, their idiosyncrasies and differing emotional angst and still manages to make a commentary on the nature of art and the integrity of an artist.
With the shifts in tone and off-beat wackiness some may be left just as unsure about the film as they would be about pronouncing “The Soronprfbs” – the name of the avant-garde rock band at the films centre. However, with an open mind many will appreciate the sharp writing, excellent performances and the finely tuned balance of black humour. After this charming and engaging little dramedy, I wouldn’t be surprised if all the cast and crew developed a big head. Fine work by everyone.
Trivia: Frank is loosely based on late British comedian Chris Sievey’s iconic comedy character Frank Sidebottom who wore the same papier-mached head. Screenwriter Jon Ronson once played in his band.