frank movie posterWhen coming to a movie on home release, following very good reviews and a Blu-ray front cover screaming hyperbole, it can be very hard to form a genuine response to it as expectation is set to a different level.

Lenny Abrahamson’s Frank is certainly a film that falls into this category, but, for the most part, stands up to these summations.

Telling the story of a band making a record, heading to a music festival and the fallout there-of, the film is very loosely based on a true story (or at least starting from the same place as an almost true event) from the life of writer Jon Ronson and his time playing keyboard for musical character comedian Frank Sidebottom (aka Chris Sievey).

Beyond the keyboard player and the big fake head, however, I was left with the feeling that little was similar between real events and Frank so, rather than a semi-autobiographical tale, we have something that is, essentially, a love letter to the most independent of ‘indie’ music that often brought to mind the events surrounding The Brian Jonestown Massacre in documentary, Dig!

Frank - Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Fassbender and Domhnall Gleeson
Gyllenhaal, Fassbender and Gleeson

We are led into the film by Jon (Domhnall Gleeson), the aforementioned keyboard player, and struggling songwriter. The film’s opening is something I think anyone with musical aspirations can relate to as a genuinely spot on portrait is painted of Jon trying to write songs while, in his view, trapped in suburbia and a dead-end job.

He soon bumps into the members of Frank’s (Michael Fassbender) band, the hilariously unpronounceable Soronprfbs, while their current keyboard player is trying to drown himself and, following a fairly disastrous gig, gets caught in the very slow-moving whirlwind of the band as they try to record a new album.

The film is somewhat episodic, but just about ties everything together enough so that this doesn’t become a problem and, as it goes on, our focus shifts somewhat to the titular Frank, and a mesmerising performance from Fassbender from under the big plastic head, around which the rest of the band circulate with varying levels of questioning and intimacy.

Michael Fassbender as Frank
Michael Fassbender as Frank

A particular highlight of the rest of the band is Maggie Gyllenhaal’s performance of Clara and the semi-side story of her clash of personalities with Jon.

For a music lover (and aspiring player) the film has some fascinating moments and for any creative carries a great message that it never really hammers home but lets the viewer uncover, while treading the fine line between drama and comedy with aplomb.

The final section is very hard to talk about without revealing too much, but, as it builds, Frank (the film) becomes more eccentric, but at the same time even more gripping as it becomes something of a road movie.

Domhnall Gleeson as Jon in Frank
Domhnall Gleeson as Jon

Here is where I found something of a problem in that Jon, rather than being a character I wanted to keep following, became somewhat insufferable and I was caring more for Frank despite the movie’s best efforts in forcing me to spend time with Jon.

In the denouement though the greatness of Fassbender’s performance really does reveal itself and leaves things on a very satisfying note continuing the film’s obsession with perceptions in indie music, and in life in general.

In the end Frank is a movie packed with indie ‘quirks’, but, with a central performance like that of Fassbender, some interesting questions and topics and a great message, it avoids falling into generic quirky indie movie territory so, while I wouldn’t go so far as some other reviews, it is certainly highly enjoyable piece and, I think for fans of indie music and creative people in general, will have a lot to interest them.

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