“Frank” is an offbeat British comedy that follows a character based off of 80s musician Chris Sievey who donned a papier-mâché head and performed as “Frank Sidebottom.” Domhnall Gleeson plays Jon, a wannabe musician who seizes an opening for a keyboardist with Frank’s eccentric pop band The Soronprfbs. The original music is exceptionally memorable and only adds to the likability of the group.
Each band member has their own oddity which creates an entertaining dynamic within the group when they move into an isolated cabin to record an album. Frank, played by Michael Fassbender, is kind and charming while Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character, Clara, is extremely malicious to Jon throughout the film in a comedic manner. The other band members speak mostly amongst themselves in French. It succeeds in producing engaging dark comedy even through onscreen deaths and relationship turmoil.
Towards the end of the film however, it changes from a fun comedy into a dramatic film where suddenly our protagonist Jon is the villain and the trouble-making band members are the victims. After Jon posted videos of the band online looking for fame and helped Frank to find a more radio-friendly sound, it turns out he was only seeking glory for himself. His total destruction of the band comes at an unforgettably disastrous SXSW performance that would put Ashley Simpson’s infamous lip-syncing debacle to shame, ending with Frank’s panic attack.
Following Frank’s breakdown, the film continues to change in tone abruptly and drastically. Frank, the character that the audience has laughed at and been wonderfully confused by the whole film suddenly leaves us feeling melancholy, conflicted, and oddly guilty when it is revealed plainly that he is suffering from a mental illness.
The biggest flaw in “Frank” is the directorial decision to remove the title character’s head and reveal onscreen the man’s true features. It puts a face on the enigmatic anti-hero and brings him down to human status, which he seemed to ascend when he wore the mask. Previously, the audience had grown to love the quirky, kind and sincere character but once he is revealed we are forced to see him in a completely different light, as a mental health patient. It forces you to look back at scenes and re-evaluate them in an unpleasant and uneasy way. Frank goes from a colorful, wacky eccentric to a glum loner suffering from what appears to be a form of Autism. Nevertheless director Lenny Abrahamson succeeded in creating an outlandish and unique Indie film.
*Published in the Roosevelt University, Torch, 2013.