Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) is not where he wants to be. Living with his parents, working in an office, but dreaming of music, he walks home each day trying in vain to come up with songs. Hell, he even barely has any followers on Twitter.
Then one day, he stumbles onto a man trying to drown himself in the sea. A man who is the keyboardist of an avant garde band (with the unpronounceable name of ‘Soronprfbs’) who watch him get loaded into the ambulance. Jon reveals that he also plays keys. “Can you play C, F and G?” The band’s erstwhile manager, Don (Scott McNairy) asks him. When Jon replies in the affirmative, he gets the gig.
The band turn out to be eccentric in the extreme and borderline dysfunctional, none more so than their leader, Frank (Michael Fassbender).
Frank is the vocalist and main songwriter of the group and undoubtedly the key talent involved. Oh, and he also happens to wear a giant fake head. That he never takes off. Ever.
When Soronprfbs decide to head to a remote cabin to write and record their album, Jon comes along, thrilled to finally be realising his life’s dream. But what he didn’t count on was how hard it would be to get his own voice heard amongst such a strange array of individuals.
Loosely based on the real-life Frank Sidebottom and his band, Frank is a film that initially comes off as slight and jokey, before steadily revealing depth and layers as Jon finds out that even in a band of former mental patients (Don) and the extremely volatile (Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Clara), he may be the most dangerous of all.
Much of the comedy comes from Fassbender’s Frank, a strange character who embraces every strange method for producing creativity. He is one step away from social normalcy and gets confused when Jon’s tweets end up with the band finding apparent popularity when they are used to playing to small groups of angry bar punters.
Fassbender finds a delicate balance between the laughs and the internal tragedy of the character, but the real standout is Gleeson. In every scene, the film rests firmly on Gleeson’s shoulders as he plays a character that could easily be thoroughly unlikeable in his desperate search for fame and acceptance.
This becomes the key path for the film. As Jon tries to find his own creativity and drive the band to fame, he is forced to come face-to-face with his own limitations and the impact his actions have on other people.
Frank is ultimately a movie about understanding your own place in the world and having empathy towards others, a refreshing sentiment in times so dominated by the ‘trample others to get ahead’ philosophy of success. That it manages to make this point within the framework of a funny, sweet and affecting film just makes it all the more special.
The extras include a forgettable 10-minute slice of ‘fly on the wall’ footage during one of the scenes and a couple of promo pieces, but the only one of subtance is a hefty series of lengthy interviews with a large range of cast and crew.
The questions asked are repetitive, but the sheer volume of responses provide a lot of backstory to the making of the film and its various objectives. The dry nature of the talking head-style pieces make it only really for the enthusiast, though.
Frank is available on DVD from Madman.