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'Frank' review: Charmed by a welcoming smile you'll never see

Frank

Rating:
Star4
Star
Star
Star
Star

"Frank" begins its theatrical run in Houston at Sundance Cinemas starting today.

Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Fassbender, and Domhnall Gleeson as Clara, Frank, and Jon.
Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Fassbender, and Domhnall Gleeson as Clara, Frank, and Jon.
Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures, used with permission.
The official theatrical poster for "Frank."
Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures, used with permission.

Jon Burroughs (Domhnall Gleeson) is a musician who is constantly struggling with his songwriting. No idea is good enough to get past its initial concept. Jon is then given the opportunity to perform with the Soronprfbs. Not only is the band leaping off the charts of experimental and obscure, but it's lead by a man named Frank (Michael Fassbender) who wears (and never removes) a giant, painted, cartoon head. As they begin preparations to record for their forthcoming album, Jon sees the experience as a way to showcase his own talent while Frank just wants an appreciative audience.

"Frank" is based on the true story of Jon Ronson's experience playing keyboard for the British band Frank Sidebottom Oh Blimey Big Band. The film is bizarre and may not feel so incredible while you're watching it, but its final scene really brings everything together in a way that is both heartbreaking and absolutely satisfying. The music has the same effect as it seems absolutely ludicrous at times, but the likes of Frank's "Most Likeable Song Ever" and "I Love You All" will be echoing in your head long after the film ends.

The film is like an uneven blend of emotions and genres that doesn't always result in a pleasing concoction but if done right teeters on the boundaries of greatness. Music, drama, and comedy are presented in uncomfortable, sorrowful, and sometimes hilarious situations.

The charm of "Frank" is the character Michael Fassbender portrays. Frank is this creative genius that hides his identity like a turtle that won't come out of its shell and describes his facial expressions by saying them out loud. The band perfects every little thing for 11 months before recording a single note and their "field work" is mostly the band capturing really weird sounds out in nature that you wouldn't think would be important in music. Frank is eccentric and unpredictable, which results in a film that travels in unexpected and pleasing directions.

After everything is said and done though, you can't help but wonder how Jon turned out. In the film, former keyboard players basically fly off the deep end. Several of the members of the Soronprfbs suffer from mental illness anyway, but Jon swears up and down that he won't end up like the keyboard player he saw trying to drown himself. While Jon's actions in the band are ambitious, they're also extremely selfish and he soon realizes that the band would have been better off without him ever being a part of it.

"Frank" is almost like an episode of "Behind the Music" where you witness the rise and fall of a band you've never heard of featuring some of the most peculiar characters and musicians you've ever come across. The music is like a more exploratory venture for Scott Pilgrim's Sex Bob-Omb and the lust for fame and mainstream attention nearly destroys what was so unique about such a quirky little band.

Constantly engaging with spectacular performances from Domhnall Gleeson, Michael Fassbender, and Scoot McNairy and a finale that will resonate in the hearts of everyone, "Frank" is a fascinating and touching exploration of music and sound that only a special kind of person can tune into.