Frank Review


How to describe Frank?

Well, he’s a maverick musician whose heart beats to the rhythm of its own idiosyncratic drummer, who sings, and dances, and plays guitar and keyboards amongst many other musical trinkets.

Oh, and he also wears a massive papier mache head over his regular sized one.

That’s the crazy world Frank’s decided he belongs to, if only because our own crazy world doesn’t fit him quite so well.

Someone else who doesn’t fit so easily into the regular craziness of our accepted world is Jon, a man-child and wannabe songwriter slowly dying in the 9-5 routine of his so called life.

You see, Jon wants to write a hit song so he can become a famous rock star and bask in everything this entails.

Which equals money, fame, drugs and groupies.

The only slight obstacle in the way of Jon achieving this dream is that he’s not particularly good at making music.

But as he’s walking along the beach one day, watching some crazy eyed loon try to drown himself, Jon strikes up a casual conversation with a man standing next to a van.

Said van happens to belong to the aforementioned man’s band, an unpronounceable act that I won’t even try and type out; and the fellow trying to off himself in the shallow end of some English sea is their soon to be former keyboardist.

Before you can say I play the keyboards too, or in this case immediately after, Jon finds himself part of a proper band.

Only thing being, Jon has yet to be introduced to Frank.

Based on an article written by Jon Ronson, former keyboardist for cult Timperley musician come comedian Frank Sidebottom, Frank is a strange sort of homage to this unusual muzak hero.

Chris Sievey was the man inside the comedy head of Mr Sidebottom, and Frank takes the most recognisable features of Sievey’s creation before turning this into something new that reveals something about the state of mind of those most fragile of creatures – lead singers.

Which makes it equally strange when Ronson refuses to admit his character is largely based on Frank Sidebottom at the Sundance screening of Frank I saw.

No doubt there are other elements involved in this creation of Jon’s, but when you choose to give your character an identical papier mache head to that of Senor Sidebottom as well as the same first name, it’s hard to escape coming to this conclusion.

Don’t call your character Frank and don’t make his massive head identical to Chris Sievey’s creation, or do and don’t get defensive about such a shameless marketing act for your film.

As I’m not a hard core Sidebottom fan I don’t really care, because Frank is such a fun film.

Domhnall Gleeson is naively charming enough as Jon to keep you on his side for most of the journey he goes through, as we see Frank through his eyes, Maggie Gyllenhaal’s too cruel for school performance provides a nice balance to this, and the marvellously monikered Scoot McNairy is wise as Jon’s guide to the band as well as the spinal tap destiny that lies in wait for all their keyboardists.

Then there’s Michael Fassbender as Frank.

You wouldn’t think he’d be able to do much behind a head he almost never takes off, but the freedom of not having to look like Michael Fassbender the whole time allows the actor to pull off one of his most offbeat performances.

Describing Frank the film is actually quite simple; it’s an original, fun take on the madness most pioneering musicians are gleefully afflicted by.

Describing the ordinary insanity of Frank Sidebottom, well that’s another story.

Jonathan Campbell

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Dates ‘n stuff

May 2014