Frank – 2014
The promotional material for this whacky, eccentric ‘dramady’ were creatively tantalising and refreshingly prepossessing from the first viewing. Lenny Abrahamson’s “Frank” struck many-a-chord with it’s obvious quirkiness, stupidity and innovative exertion; offering up something delightfully new to entertain us in amongst the colossally boring, formulaic CGI-fest that everyday cinema goers have sadly grown accustomed to (Transformers…enough said).
Ever so loosely based around journalist Jon Ronson’s experiences whilst being a keyboardist for musician Chris Sievey, aka Frank Sidebottom, “Frank” is about another Jon (Domhnall Gleeson), a luckless, talentless keyboardist who lacks a single creative bone in his body. Being in the right place at the right time, Jon runs in to Don, a member of a band, overlooking his keyboardist run astray in the ocean. In need of a replacement, Jon seizes the opportunity to finally belong to something bigger than his bedside synth and computer.
The band in question is the unpronounceable “Soronprfbs”; a contemporaneous, experimental outfit that is lead by Frank (Michael Fassbender).
Frank, is an enigmatic vocalist that dons an obscenely comical paper mâché head. His band members have never seen him without it and have thus accepted it for what it is.
Looking as if it has been taken straight out of Arcade Fire’s “Reflektor” video clip, Frank’s head is a modern spin on Sidebottom’s original cheerfully-eyed cranium, and that is more or less where the similarities finish between the characters.
Many critics have expressed their disappointment regarding “Frank’s” complete ‘disregard for the source material’ and the ‘completely false biopic’ that it has been unfairly labelled.
The fact is that “Frank” is NOT a biopic in any way. The head itself has been the primary source of inspiration for foundation of the story, and that is it.
As mentioned in the credits, Christopher Sievey’s larger than life attitude inspired the creation of the film, but the film itself is not a factually based reflection on his career.
It should be reinforced before viewing that the original Frank Sidebottom should get out of the audience’s……head.
The film itself is lovely and energetic above all else, yet the levels of pretentiousness and self-congratulating can be quite overbearing at times.
The characters themselves (particularly Maggie Gyllenhaal’s infuriating character of Clara) are all self-obsessed ‘artists’ who would probably love the smell of their own farts, but then again, it was expected from the outset.
There are a French pair within the band whose input is upsettingly weak.
They don’t offer much at all which is disappointing from a character development aspect. They tend to sit around and smoke, not bringing much else to the table.
The performance of Michael Fassbender on the other hand is difficult to definitively grasp given his unique circumstance, yet the mannerisms and body language of Frank are superb.
“Frank” is hilarious at points, and the visual comedy aspect of the film is predominately generated by the presence of that head.
What makes it that much funnier is that the cinematographic choices have resulted in subtlety doing the lion’s share of the work. Frank’s presence in the background of a shot is often funnier than the sharply focused close-ups of the head.
Jon, the protagonist is an awkward figure. Initially, he is fantastic. We get an insight into the creative brick wall he has been unable to climb across and we get a feel for the sympathetic, shy man that he is.
His under appreciated status within “Soronprfbs” is unjust in comparison to his input.
The exposure that he generates for the band through social media allow “Soronprfbs” to land a gig at the popular South By Southwest music festival, but even after that, Jon still isn’t treated fairly.
The inclusion of social media in “Frank” underpins the openly separated perspective the film is coming from in relation to Frank Sidebottom.
The contemporary spin the film possesses is clever, utilised brilliantly and makes the experience overall that much better. This in turn effects the music.
Musically, “Frank” is outrageously excellent. The scattered, chaotic smorgasbord of experimental, whacky sounds that dominate the film have taken absurdism to a whole new level.
The montage of the band sourcing inspiration from inanimate objects is enough to prove the point.
Ranging from the quirkily pleasant to the hysterically and comically surreal, the music of Frank and “Soronprfbs” is brilliant. The song “I Love You All” is a sincere, cult classic that grows and grows upon each listen.
Some of Frank’s spontaneous improvisational tunes even sound Mighty Boosh-esque which is simply brilliant.
With a large amount of laughs en route, “Frank” is a shockingly enjoyable tale that takes the strongest elements of black comedy, melancholy drama and heartfelt endearment and wraps it all together, creating a mixed bag of emotional and atmosphere.
The gradual but incredibly successful tonal shift in the film is excellent and incredibly moving.
There are two scenes of Jon walking in the film that are almost identical, yet with the shift in tone, the difference between them is staggeringly poignant.
This had 5 out of 5 written all over it, but sadly “Frank” fell short, but only marginally. Immoderate and excessive levels expectation resulted in an underwhelming feeling following the film, yet this wasn’t fair to “Frank”.
Preconceived presumptions can only prove detrimental to the overall experience of a film and “Frank” demonstrated this all too well.
Charming, heartwarming, upsetting, frustrating, inspiring and weird overall, “Frank” has everything. Fassbender shines from behind the head, while the majority of supporting cast do their job perfectly as the back up band.
For a whacky, absurd, strange and ludicrous tale, “Frank” will undoubtedly be in the top 10 films of 2014, perhaps even top 3…