“You play C, F, and G?” Don asked; “Yeah,” Jon agreed; “You’re in,” said Don.
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Loosely adapted/inspired by the scriptwriter—Jon Ronson’s memoir about the alter-ego of Manchester-born comedian, Chris Sievey—who wears loose fake head under the name of Frank Sidebottom, Lenny Abrahamson’s Frank is not merely a biography nor a “real” based-on-real-event spectacle. Frank embraces the spirit of road movie and all absurdity that you need to see in a “real” biopic (that somehow reminds me to Nicholas Winding-Refn’s Bronson). Obviously, Frank is a funny flick with double consumption of energy and all-access to the your frowning-face states.
The story begins with Jon Burroughs (Domhnall Gleeson)—a keyboardist/obsessed song-writer (accidentally) being asked to join an avant-garde pop band, The Soronprfbs (Look! How absurd!), whose frontman is the enigmatic Frank (magnificent meta-performance by Michael Fassbender), whose never-been-removed papier-mâché head is more like absurdity than creativity. Without further ado, Jon struggles to mingle and blend-in in the band along with other savant/lunatic band mates, like Don (Scoot McNairy), an ex-keyboardist/current manager who has fetish to mannequin; Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a rude-and-mysterious theremin player; also Frenc couple—Baraque (Francois Civil) the bass player and Nana (Carla Azar) the drummer.
The Soronprfbs immediately goes to Vetko, Ireland, in a 11-month recording process that results in more chaos than songs—which Jon updates everyday via Twitter, Tumblr, or Youtube to cause massive world-wide hype. The story might go from Jon’s POV, but no doubt, the main attraction is Frank who insist on using their self-made gamut, recording natural sounds, and inventing his own creative method—like the “Chincilla” jargons et al. As the band heads for stardom—with SXSW music fest ahead—something bigger awaits them in their way and only Jon never sees it coming.
Frank is basically a double character study with different method; first, the audiences observe Jon directly, and second, the audiences observe Frank through Jon’s observation toward him. Through the “calamity” and absurdity of the plot, we witness how Jon experiences his from-zero-to-hero dilemma ’til something terribe consumes him; but what we see the whole time is a magnificent and magnetic performance from Michael Fassbender, who portrays Frank, mostly, without showing his facial expression, but still performs convincingly on portraying how clumsy and how absurd his character is. Fass shows not only a quality as a “voice-over” artist, but a real class in gesture and body language. Frank’s expression is left to be interpreted as anything, even when he sometimes tries to describe his expression with verbal sentences—which is kinda awkward (“a big, non-threatening grin”—how do you know Frank’s not lying?). To wrap up, Frank has Gleeson jr. in another top performance, but Frank is Fassbender with best performance he has ever had without removing a fake head.
To balance with the absurdity, Frank presents some quiet, contemplative moments around the end of the second act and, mostly, on the whole third act. The third act leads the whole chaos in the film to an anti-climax; but that’s not bad—that’s how Frank should end; otherwise, Frank will end up as a banal zero-to-hero film that being forgettable soon as the film ends.
Frank is a witty black comedy that embraces absurdity and creativity to journey behind the back of an internet-era avant-garde band. With convincing performance from Gleeson jr. and Fassbender, Frank might goes bitter or sweet; however, it’s a masterpiece eventually.
Comedy, Drama Directed by: Lenny Abrahamson Written by: Jon Ronson, Peter Straughan Starred by: Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Scoot McNairy Running Time: 95 mins