A trailer of a man jumping around in an over-sized papier mache head may not seem to promise a profound and sensitive film, but director Lenny Abrahamson’s Frank, co-written with Jon Ronson is just that. Frank (Michael Fassbender) is the lead singer of a band with an unpronounceable name and an eccentric musical style, who wears a bizarre fake head. Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) is a talentless, unimaginative wannabe in search of musical success. Jon desperately looks for inspiration in everything and finds it in nothing, while Frank finds inspiration in everything. When the two worlds collide it’s like Bridget Jones walking into a von Trier movie, funny, cringeworthy, poignant and ultimately a disaster.
Jon takes advantage of the meltdown of the band’s keyboard player to join Frank and his loyal band as they embark on a tortured creative process in the Irish wilderness. The off-beat music that results is far from the ‘likeable’ that Jon would prefer, but listen out and you might detect the tones of Bowie and Jeff Buckley in Fassbender’s singing.
Frank is revered as a genius by his devoted band members including Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal), and Don (Scoot McNairy). Jon, on the other hand, is nagged by the obvious question that they don’t ask – what’s the head all about? ‘Why cover anything up?’ as Frank himself muses. This tragicomedy raises many questions about the relationship between madness and genius, integrity and compromise, art and celebrity and the role of social media in neutralising genuine artistic creativity.
Fassbender (Hunger, 12 years a Slave) is intriguing as Frank, somehow still managing to give expression to the fixed astonished look of the mask he’s wearing. Rising star Domhnall Gleeson (Calvary) is brilliant as the naïve, loser Jon. Frank is a weird and wonderful film, a definite must for Arthouse audiences.