There are just too many things that have inspired and influenced Lenny Abrahamson’s Frank so I won’t even begin to go into them. But I will say this: this is not the biography of either Frank Sidebottom or Chris Sievey, although both have had an impact on the film in different ways. When Jon, a slave to the nine-to-five, gets the chance to play keyboard for a band whose name is unpronounceable he jumps at the opportunity. An aspiring musician who can’t get his songs to come out “not shit”, Jon eventually finds himself in a cabin with the band, recording their next album. What Jon believed to be a weekend trip to Scotland for a gig turns into eleven months of soul searching, music making, madness, genius and chaos. The film is narrated by Jon and his twitter updates. The film centres on Jon for the most part, although it is Frank who we really want to know. The band is made up of a sulky French guitarist, and an equally moody French female drummer, a terrifying and twisted theremin and synthesiser player and Frank, the lead vocalist. Frank is the heart and soul of the band; the leader and the brains of the operation. It just so happens that these brains are hidden beneath a large paper-mache head. Nobody has seen what Frank looks like and what appears even more concerning than this is the fact that, apart from Jon, nobody else seems to want to.
Ten years ago, Lenny Abrahamson made his debut with Adam and Paul – a hilarious and heart-breaking story that followed two heroin addicts around Dublin as they attempt to make money, get a fix and cling to the edges of society. It has been suggested by much greater critics than I that Frank is also presenting such characters; individuals unable to fit in or be understood within the cultural norms. Jon initially holds the story together, being perhaps the only recognisably “ordinary” character – or at least at first. As the film progresses, the lines grow blurrier. Is Frank a genius or just another victim of poor mental health? You’ll think you know at first but you’ll be questioning your own understanding of this film at around the forty-five minute mark. Frank is made brilliant by its actors. Domhnall Gleeson is surprisingly hilarious as Jon whose views we share for most of the journey. Michael Fassbender manages to bring a charisma and a striking personality to Frank despite the obstruction of a fake head. Yet, it is Maggie Gyllenhaal who makes this movie. She never disappoints me and has proved, through Frank, just how simultaneously precise and erratic she can be as an actress. She gives a powerhouse performance that deserves a lot more attention. The film gets better and better and although I am not as bowled over by Frank as perhaps I should be, I do think this is a clever and unpredictable indie romp that climbs to extraordinary heights in its closing moments.
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