Some say sanity is overrated. This deeply touching, yet at times laugh-out-loud British indie comedy certainly explores and sheds light on that theory.
Frank tells the tale of Jon, engagingly played by Domhnall Gleeson (previously seen as Bill Weasley in the Harry Potter franchise), a wannabe musician who gets the chance to play keyboard at the last minute for the Soronprfbs – a band led by Frank, an experimental musician who wears a large painted papier mâché head and never takes it off.
Jon thinks his moment has arrived when he’s invited back to do a “big thing” with the band in Ireland – until he learns that the big thing he believed was a gig is actually a long-term stay, recording their album. And he’s only brought one pair of trousers. However, when Jon starts posting YouTube clips and tweeting like a chatty “ginger bird”, the band begin to gain a bit of a following and are soon asked to perform at the prestigious South by Southwest festival in America. Maybe the moment has come for them all to shine bright. Then again, maybe not.
Thoughtfully handled by critically acclaimed Irish director Lenny Abrahamson, Frank is a beautifully bonkers story that effortlessly draws you in. Scrolling tweets across the screen with funny hashtags give us instant character resonance points, as in a scene where Jon rushes to his bedroom, brimming with an idea for a song only to realise it’s the Madness classic he just heard on the bus.
Inspired in large part by Chris Sievey, the comic persona of Frank Sidebottom (who is said to have given his backing to the film before he passed away), co-writer Jon Ronson – a member of Sidebottom’s band – began developing the plot with award-winning Peter Straughan from his own writings. Along the way he fictionalised the narrative and added elements from other musicians, including Captain Beefheart.
The core cast all bring their A-game, especially Michael Fassbender who delivers an incredibly moving and layered performance as Frank. And no one does intense, unbalanced chick quite like Maggie Gyllenhaal, burning off the screen as the aggressive sidekick and theremin-playing Clara.
It’s a thin line between genius and insanity, and this uniquely-eccentric film highlights with humour and heart what might happen when that line gets crossed.
Frank is released nationwide on 9th May 2014.