Our eccentricities can sometimes pave the way to tapping into your true potential whether it is setting the mood right to write a story or playing a certain song to get “in the zone.” For the title character of director Lenny Abrahamson’s latest film, his bizarre behavior (which includes constantly wearing a papier-mâché head) might seem like his own way to channel his talent for creating music and lyrics with ease. However, Frank (Michael Fassbender) is more then just a troubled musical genius.
He is also the ringleader of a band called The Soronpfrbs who are need of a band member after their keyboardist tried to drown himself at nearby beach. Jon (Domhnall Gleeson), a young aspiring musician and keyboardist, sarcastically offers to play with them and their road manager, Don (Scoot McNairy), immediately hires him in the spur of the moment. Strange and mysterious as he is, Frank helps comfort Jon by saying his facial expressions out loud (“Flattered grin followed by bashful half-smile”). On the other hand, the rest of the band, two French snobs (Francoise Civil and Carla Azar) and their hostile theremin-playing cohort (Maggie Gyllenhaal) are less than enthusiastic about their new bandmate.
As The Soronpfrbs record their latest album in a secluded cabin in for 18 months, Jon is inspired to document making the album by uploading videos on YouTube and updating the band’s progress via his Twitter handle. With the help of a strong following, Soronpfrbs is able to secure a spot at SXSW Music Festival. As they make their way to Austin, Texas, Jon’s dream of fame and fortune threatens to pull the group apart.
“Frank” could have been nothing more than just a one-joke movie about musician who can’t create music without his papier-mâché head. It is a unique, yet strange little movie that is about many things whether it about mental illness or about the creative process of making music. The film itself is based on the experience of screenwriter Jon Ronson, who co-wrote the script with Peter Straughan, as a keyboardist for the late British comedian/musician Chris Sevey’s alter ego, Frank Sidebottom.
Gleeson is fine as the naïve young musician who immediately is enamored with Frank and his method of madness. Gyllenhaal delivers a good performance as an angry woman who makes good on her threats and has a very understanding motive on what she is protecting Frank from. McNairy continues to show his versatility as someone who can disappear in his roles especially the manager for The Sonronpfrbs who discovered Frank and share a deep connection with him.
The movie has a good cast, but Fassbender adds another memorable character to his resume even though his facial features is hidden for 99% of the film. Even without the use of his face, he still manages to turn in a magnetic performance through his voice and his body movements.
There is not a lot of films nowadays that will risk hiding the face of an Oscar-nominated actor like Fassbender, but “Frank” is willing that chance in order to tell a playful and original movie that is more then just about a band struggling to be famous.
“Frank” is now playing exclusively at the O Cinema Wynwood.