Let me get this out of the way: I adore “Frank.” It is the most bat guano insane movie I have seen since maybe Withnail and I–and that’s a good thing. Once you get past the fact that Frank is always seen wearing a giant papier-mache head, the film is charming without ever veering toward quirky.
“Frank” is a loosely based version of Jon Ronson’s time as keyboard player in a band fronted by Frank Sidebottom, who was the alter ego of Chris Sievey. Ronson co-wrote the script with Peter Straughan, and together they created the story of a band that is too weird to live, but too rare to die.
Domhnall Gleeson plays Jon, a frustrated songwriter, who spends his days working in an office. He searches his suburban neighborhood looking for inspiration, and finds little. One day, he spots the police trying to fish a madman out of the water. The madman is the keyboard player for Soronprfbs, who have a gig that night. Jon mentions to the band’s manager, Don, (Scoot McNairy) that he too is a keyboard player, and the adventure begins. Terribly.
Halfway through the first song, one of the instruments has an electrical fault, and the show is over before it began. The next day, Jon recieves a call from Don. Jon thinks the band has another performance, but it turns out that they are decamping to Ireland to record an album. This is where things go nuts.
Frank (Michael Fassbender) takes a shine to Jon straight away, but the rest of the band, especially Clara, (Maggie Gyllenhaal) the highly intense theremin player, (Is there any other kind?) show the new keyboardist nothing but scorn. Frank spends less time recording songs, and more time recording random noises, as if he is a child who just got their hands on a recording device. Soon thereafter, Jon finds out that being the keyboardist for Soronprfbs is akin to being the drummer for Spinal Tap. However, it’s insanity and not death he has to worry about.
“Frank” is a film that could have easily gone over the edge. Director Lenny Abrahamson found just the right tone for the film, and thankfully he didn’t go crazy in the process. On paper, “Frank” sounds like a Michel Gondry movie, but it never veered into that territory. I am a Gondry fan, and I think he could have made a wonderful film with this script. But he never could have made this film.