Out now on DVD and BluRay.
Note: This is an abridged version of ReelGood’s cinematic review of Frank
Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) is an aspiring musician whose talent doesn’t quite match his ambition. A chance encounter with Don (Scoot McNairy) leads to Jon being invited to play keyboard with the mysterious band called “Soronprfbs”. Leading the band is Frank (Michael Fassbender), a man who never removes a large Papier Mâché head from his shoulders. John joins the group on a creative retreat in Ireland where his social media awareness and ambition begins to leave him at odds with some of the other band members, who inexplicably regard success as failure.
Based loosely on Chris Sievey’s comic persona Frank Sidebottom, as well as taking some inspiration from Daniel Johnston and Don Van Vliet, Frank is extraordinarily insightful concerning the oddities of the music industry. There’s a discordance between the Soronprfbs band members regarding advancement. Jon is bewildered at the group’s lack of commercial interest while theremin player Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal) ridicules widespread appeal. At one point Frank declares “I’ve always envisioned having a band member who shares my dream of writing extremely likeable music!” There may be a happy medium between extreme affectation and extreme commercialism in the music industry but the members of Soronprfbs struggle to find it. Perhaps they just don’t want to.
The band accuse Jon of spying when he reveals that his online activity regarding the band has begun to garner a huge amount of interest, their enigmatic aura appealing to music lovers worldwide. What’s more curious than their outrage is the idea that a band can generate support before they’ve recorded a single note, a distinct possibility in the age of social media and certainly a testament to the idea of music being an industry of cool.
Mental illness punctuates the film, particularly regarding Frank, Don and Clara. At one point, Clara is surprised to hear that Jon thought she was sick, although her behaviour suggests that there’s certainly something about her mentality that suffers regarding social relations. This association between aptitude and insanity that spans the film is handled very well. There’s almost no question that Frank is mentally ill, and yet would treatment or a cure help in any way? The film seems to suggest that ‘fixing’ these problems often restricts rather than benefits.
Franks is a quirky film, but not overbearingly so. Considering the natural weirdness of the subject matter the weirdness feels entirely appropriate. The off-beat personalities that make up Soronprfbs is never forced but instead perhaps genuinely reflect the nature of many musicians, regardless of whether it is natural or affected. Fassbender manages to convey an impressive amount considering his head is entirely covered. Scoot McNairy continues to prove that he’s one of the most exciting emerging performers working at the moment. The actors manage to keep the characters grounded lest their quirks overshadow what’s really going on at the roots of the film.
Frank is currently available on DVD from Madman Entertainment. For more Reviews, click here. If you’re digging ReelGood, sign up to our mailing list for exclusive content, early reviews and chances to win big!