Co-written by journalist Jon Ronson (best known for the book-turned-movie-adaptation, The Men Who Stare at Goats), Frank follows Jon (Domhnall Gleeson), an aspiring musician living a life of suburban mediocrity. By chance, he is inducted into the Soronprfbs—an indie pop band of anti-socials led by the fake head-wearing, titular Frank (Michael Fassbender). Eager to achieve fame via proximity to the mysterious and supremely talented Frank, Jon spends a year in Ireland with the band as they record an album while also surreptitiously documenting his experiences online to a growing audience. When the insular Soronprfbs are offered a chance to perform for a huge audience across the pond, Jon finds himself fighting over Frank with the frontman’s explosive girlfriend, theremin-playing Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal).
Inspired by the real-life Frank Sidebottom, the well-known, comic alter ego of British musician Chris Sievey, Frank explores the origins of musical creativity, the relevance (or irrelevance) of Internet popularity, and deals with mental illness in relation to talent and genius. At the same time, the film is also unexpectedly tragic, heart-warming, and laugh-out-loud funny as Jon falls deeper and deeper in the strange world of the Soronprfbs (a running gag is how no one really knows how to pronounce the band’s name).
Played by the talented and eminently likable Gleeson, Jon shows initial signs of negative personality traits that are given room to grow the longer he spends with his disturbed and occasionally cruel bandmates. The only encouragement he receives is from kindly Frank, whom he eventually manipulates and abuses to achieve fame. Although Fassbender spends most of the movie hidden beneath a massive and absurd fake head (Is it the face of a boy or a man? Is the expression creepy or benign?), he gives a wonderful, emphatic performance through gestures and words. Gyllenhaal is also blisteringly good as the volatile and boundary-breaking Clara. Surprisingly emotional and insanely hilarious, Frank is a real gem of a movie.
Rating: 5 out of 5 lone, standing tufts