Film Review: Frank
I had no previous knowledge of the Frank Sidebottom character from the Oh Blimey Big Band upon whom the character of Frank in the film was based. Thus, all I knew prior to watching was that Frank was a character portrayed by actor Michael Fassbender sporting a giant papier-mâché head. Initially this was a slightly disappointing concept due to my admiration of Michael Fassbender as an actor, however this bias quickly dispelled once I started watching.
Frank follows the story of struggling musician Jon, played by Domhnall Gleeson, who stumbles across US band Soronprfbs (don’t worry that you can’t pronounce it, I think that’s the point) whilst on tour. The band’s keyboardist has just attempted to drown himself in the sea, so Jon finds himself filling this role. This leads to him joining the band on their yearlong cabin retreat where they are creating and recording their new album. It is here that Jon, and the audience, really get to know the enigmatic and mysterious leader of the band, Frank.
What ensues throughout the film can be described with a plethora of adjectives: funny, bizarre, wacky and brilliant yet also tender, poignant and affecting. It is an achievement of Lenny Abrahamson, the film’s director, to tell such a unique story that despite its absurdity manages to avoid ever coming across as gimmicky or a mockery. Instead the film handles the issues raised with sensitivity and thoughtfulness, something which can sometimes be quite difficulty to accomplish.
The performances in Frank are a particular highlight, especially Michael Fassbender who never comes across as being limited despite his entire head and face being covered up. His character asks Jon in one scene “Would it help if I said my facial expressions out loud?”, however, the way in which Michael Fassbender utilises body language means this is never actually necessary.
Domhnall Gleeson’s character of Jon is acting as the audience would; he wants to see what we want to see, he wants the answers to questions that we have. Gleeson portrays Jon with the correct amount of respect yet inquisitiveness that we are happy to be associated with him.
Finally Maggie Gyllenhaal fantastically portrays Clara, a character who very much mirrors the theremin that she plays – hard to master but when you do, absolutely beautiful – but one wrong movement and the results are at the more undesirable end of the spectrum.
Music is obviously a big part of the film and the decision to have the music played live during filming was an excellent one, especially in regards to the authenticity of the performances. This particular choice may have meant the film encountered problems it would have otherwise escaped, however, the theme of madness leading to genius is fittingly mirrored in the story of Frank. Another nice detail is the way in which the mood and message of the songs perfectly suit the timeline of the plot.
Overall, Frank is definitely deserving of a viewing. It is spectacularly weird but entirely wonderful and it is so much more than simply a film about a guy wearing a papier-mâché head.