FRANK

Frank
Frank trailer

This offbeat comedy drama by Jon Ronson has a light touch but a dark soul. Starring Michael Fassbender and based on the true life tale of Frank Sidebottom, who performed in a papier-mâché head, it mixes a soupcon of fact to create a film that is as simple as it is complex whilst maintaining a kudos that will garner it favour amongst the avant-garde. Fassbender manages to give a great performance even if for the majority of the film he has to rely on vocalising his various facial expressions-much to the chagrin of his volatile and antagonistic acolyte Clara (Maggie Gyllenhall)- and even though at the films denouement the mask is removed this adds little to the mystery of the character but rather lends the film a more conventional structure.
Narrated throughout from the viewpoint of Jon(Domhnall Gleeson), a wannabe musician and composer, who has his sights on stardom to break out of the mundane world he inhabits living with his parents whilst working the nine to five nightmare in an office. When the band Soronprfbs come to his town and their keyboard player tries to drown himself in a suicide bid, following a mental meltdown, he flippantly offers his services as a replacement and finds himself whisked away to an isolated recording studio with the mysterious Frank- who bears some resemblance to the offbeat Captain Beefheart- and his even weirder bunch of supporting musicians who idolise him to the point of fanaticism.
The recording process inevitably does not go smoothly and Jon unwisely offers to pay for it out of his inheritance from his grandfather without realising just how much it is all going to cost. The scenes at the recording facility range from serious to violent to heartrending whilst even incorporating some comedy slapstick moments. The whole feeling is one of a surreal dream come nightmare where everyone involved is playing an absurd extremist creating a tortured epic.
Inevitably this set up is bound to lead to further disaster and indeed it does whilst combining offbeat humour with pathos. As an audience we are rooting for Frank and his celebrated, but far from conventional, talent but somehow in our hearts we know this can never, ever be and mainstream success will always elude him. Therefore the ending of the film is notably downbeat and its attempts to explain the character of Frank fail in their objectives because it is the mystery and fantasy we have already projected onto him which provide the film’s major motivational tool and charm.
Despite this Frank is a seriously thought provoking film which questions the value of fame, integrity and celebrity. Although simply presented it is full of complexities which give it a depth which might not seem obvious from the outset but become more apparent as the film engages you in its surreal ambitions. Because of this it works on several levels and leaves you feeling emotionally connected to a character that has spent the majority of the film encased in a giant papier-mâché mask. This, in itself, is no mean achievement!

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