Frank is a thoughtful, imaginative and amusing piece of work making for a hugely watchable and enjoyable movie.
Michael Fassbender dons a huge fake head in the enjoyable Frank showing at Sundance London. The movie is a fictionalised account based on a book written by journalist Jon Ronson who also co wrote the screenplay. In the 1980s Ronson played keyboards in the Frank Sidebottom Oh Blimey Big Band in which Frank wore a big fake head and nobody outside his inner circle knew his true identity.
In a small quiet English seaside town Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) tries to pursue his passion for writing songs in between working at his humdrum day job. Even given his undoubted enthusiasm for trying to be creative Jon struggles to actually write anything even vaguely resembling a half decent couple of lyrics. On Twitter he likes to tweet his songwriting status or more the lack of it along with updates on what he is eating for lunch. But when a band comes to town and their keyboard player goes off the rails he sees opportunity knocking to join the band for an actual gig. Shortly after he finds himself travelling with the band to Ireland to record an album which ends up taking him on a pretty epic journey.
Jon's new band members are a weird, odd bunch of characters which include the slightly crazed and volatile Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal), Don (Scoot McNairy) an ex-keyboard player of the band who now operates as a kind of manager, and then there's Frank the band's enigmatic front man played by Fassbender and who insists on wearing an over-sized fake head at all times.
Frank is a hard film to easily define and although it manages to remain on the right side of upbeat with plenty of laughs it does gently broach issues revolving around mental health. The exploits of the band trying to make a album touch on notions of artistic endeavour, originality and the sphere that songwriters and musicians have to encounter in trying to be creative.
While generally having to be the subject of suspicion and hostility enforced by most of the band Jon is encouraged by Frank's friendship and welcome remarks about his on the face of it tragically lame attempts at songwriting and starts to be become more emboldened about his actual merits and worthiness. Gleeson does a terrific job in portraying his character Jon's transformation and voyage from awkward geeky young dude trying hard to fit in, to feeling like he was the main man in charge of the band's destiny and even catalyst towards the success he so craves. Ultimately though a hard lesson in self discovery awaits him.
The movie keeps you guessing about what is going to happen next and trying to work out the main characters and how they interact with each other. In the history of bands there are lots of examples of artistic spats, personal issues and tragedies, conflicts, inner working quirks and inspiration which are all evident in Frank.
Summing up Frank is a thoughtful, imaginative and amusing piece of work making for a hugely watchable and enjoyable movie.
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