Frank. Frank Sidebottom. Lenny Abrahamson directs this hilarious black comedy inspired by Jon Ronson’s memoir about the indie conundrum Frank Sidebottom. This film definitely had its ups and downs, it really had me at times and at others it seemed to forget to that people were actually watching it as it went off on a tangent sometimes blurring the message of the film.
Abrahamson brilliantly utilises physical and absurdist comedy at the core of the film. The opening scene was exceptional as it captured the audience and introduced Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) in an entertaining and interesting way, exposing us to his difficulties in coming up with a song as he tries his best to make his surroundings some sort of divine inspiration but ends up making a song to the tone of something he had just heard on the radio. Domhnall Gleeson nails the personality of a painfully mediocre, hapless amateur keyboardist with a boring office job, dreaming of the bright lights and musical stardom. He epitomises this through his cliché inspirational sticky notes on his desk. He portrays mediocrity so well, you can’t dislike him because he has done nothing wrong, but you can’t like him because he hasn’t really done anything! He is the closest link to reality throughout the film, he is seemingly the only one in the band that has any sense or sanity for that matter. But the underlying message is that because he has this sense, he has no real talent, no real muse. Rather than getting in touch with nature and running wild in the bush he decides to generate some interest in the band using social media, and he never really gets along with anyone in the band. He is the secret evil villain, the bad guy and he doesn’t even realise.
‘Frank’ is full of deep and interesting personalities that fill up every scene, whether it is Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and her constant cynicism and banter, or Don (Scoot McNairy) the band’s manager with serious issues in the bedroom and problems trying to get women to stay still, and last but not least Frank himself, played by Michael Fassbender, the eccentric, giant head wearing, musical genius that has issues with faces. Fassbender does a tremendous job expressing his emotions using his physicality, through tilts and nods, creating the illusion that the fake head actually subtly changes expression along with the dialogue. Fassbender reportedly performed everything himself despite his character wearing a gigantic papier-mache head for most of the film (which reminded me of V played by Hugo Weaving in “V for Vendetta”) a feat that must be commended. Fassbender’s surprising vocals were the icing on the cake, as the songs Frank makes are weird and out there and if the vocals weren’t good, well… then the song would suck and it would make Frank not much of a genius, but more of a joke.
Many people believe that it is the face of celebrities that make them famous. Frank simply subverts that ideal. Frank isn’t crazy, he is a dark horse filled with emotional damage and has become withdrawn into his own head and has found others with similar insecurities and together make a ‘decent’ band.
This film painfully lacked likeable characters, each character just seemed to have their own internal issues and continually rejected the audiences sympathies. I honestly couldn’t say I cared that much for the bands success or for Jon’s ambitions. Each character just got a little annoying at times, which held the film back in my opinion.
The film also explores the fine line between having talent and not having talent. I personally didn’t connect very well with this concept, it felt as if Jon was rejected not because he didn’t have the heart or drive, but simply because he didn’t have the talent. A message that I feel isn’t entirely true, as many people have become successful as a result of hard work rather than talent alone. Thus this film fell short of my expectations. Sure it was hilarious at times, but the entire film was based around the concept of not being able to succeed if you are talentless, and that just didn’t sit well with me.
Frank is a good laugh, and I personally really enjoy black humour, but the plot and concept weren’t strong enough to resonate with me. It isn’t a must see, but if you are really cynical, and don’t mind having your dreams dashed them give a watch!