It takes a lot of balls to take one of the acting’s fastest rising stars and put him under a mask for an entire film. Yet that’s exactly what Lenny Abrahamson has done with Michael Fassbender in his latest feature film Frank. Written by Jon Ronson the film is based on Chris Sievey and his comic alter-ego Frank Sidebottom, who’s band Ronson spent time playing keyboard in. Although in reality the only concrete link between the two characters is the giant mask that covers Fassbender’s face for the duration of the movie. The character itself takes not just from Sievey, but troubled musical souls like Daniel Johnston and Captain Beefheart.
The movie unfolds from the perspective of Jon (Domhnall Glesson) who ends up joining Frank’s band Soronprfbs after their previous keyboard player tries to drown himself. Initially assuming he is heading to Ireland with them to play a concert, he actually ends up spending a year locked up in a house as they attempt to write an album under the enigmatic leadership of Frank. While there he develops an uneasy relationship with his other band mates, in particular Clara (Maggie Gyllenhall) who appears to pretty much hate his guts,but despite this he is determined to make it as a musician and believes that in Frank, who never removes his mask, he has found the perfect troubled mentor.
It’s a strange twisted tale that is at times hilarious and at times tragic. For a man who’s face you never see Fassbender puts in a fantastic performance. The physical nature of it gives Frank a personality beyond that of his head and actually allows you to feel something for this obviously emotionally challenged individual. Gyllenhall is delightful,if terrifying, as the psychopathic Clara while Gleeson is wonderfully naive in the central role. He spends the entire film completely missing the point of everything that Soronprfbs are attempting to do and in reality, if you wish to label it in such a way, becomes the bad guy of the piece, with his determination to be a ‘star’.
If you are looking for a light hearted comic piece of cinema Frank is not what you want. Underneath the ridiculous head this is a dark movie that needs some serious therapy. That doesn’t mean it wont make you laugh however, there are some genuinely funny moments, it’s just not everything there is to the movie. It’s a strange look at the life of an individual who isn’t quite with it mentally and how he is viewed by someone who while on paper is, might actually be just as bad, if not worse.