Dir: Lenny Abrahamson Writers: Jon Ronson and Peter Staughan
Cast: Domnhall Gleeson, Michael Fassbender, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Scoot McNairy
94mins UK Drama
Based in his native Dublin, Lenny Abrahamson’s latest film was inspired by scripter/journalist Jon Ronson’s time in a band with comic and musician Chris Sievey (aka Frank Sidebottom). Here, with fellow writer Peter Staughan, he imagines working with the idiosyncratic character through the eyes of a budding composer called Jon (Domnhall Gleeson).
FRANK kicks off to an upbeat vibe as we meet Jon, a likeable wannabe musician who can’t seem to find his groove, until a random meeting with a travelling band ‘Soronprfbs” seems to offer potential. Led by Frank (Michael Fassbender in a fake paper-mache head), they are a motley, offbeat crew but Jon embraces them innocently and without question. Amongst the players is bank manager Doug (Scoot McNairy) and Frank’s hostile lover/groupie Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who takes an instant dislike to Jon, motivated by jealousy of losing Frank’s attention rather than Jon’s musical talent.
On a whim and with nothing else to do, Jon follows the band to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where the story takes a darker tone, changing from major to minor, as they attempt to record an album in the claustrophobia of a cabin in the woods. With the help of Twitter, Youtube and financing from his ‘nest egg’, Jon develops the band’s exposure to the outside world but potential success exposes cracks in the facade of Frank’s creativity and mental fragility and the strain of living together in confinement. When the band finally gets a break in SXSW’s discovery strand, things really start to crack up (quite literally) for Frank, his love-in with Clara and his musical career.
Frank is an enigmatic film that wants to be funny, and, at times, succeeds but also drifts aimlessly into darker territory when it attempts to convey the true nature of creative talent and the volatility of public following. It doesn’t quite work tonally, despite a compelling performance from Fassbender, who carries the film with the sheer force of his personality even with an expressionless disguise. Jon is an endearing character but doesn’t posses the charisma needed to provide dramatic punch to lift Fassbender and Gyllenhaal’s dark duo, Frank and Clara. That said, Lenny Abrahamson has made a brave attempt to distill the ups and downs of creative output without being judgemental and is a filmmaker watching for his the strength and scope of his ideas. MT
OUT ON DVD and BLU-RAY FROM 15 SEPTEMBER 2014