Frank: Review – Sundance 2014

By Meredith Alloway · January 18, 2014

Frank is weird. It's about a musician in a rock band who wears a fake head at all times. It's totally weird, totally bizarre…. and I love it.

The film had its world premiere Friday night at the Eccles Theater. Upon walking in the door, everyone was handed masks that resembled Frank's fake head. I knew, already, this was going to be a ride. I had been hearing about the film for months, but all I knew was that Scoot McNairy played a man who slept with mannequins, Michael Fassbender's face was hidden the entire movie and some new red headed kid was insanely hilarious.

As the movie began, I saw all of these were true.  Domhnall Gleeson stars as Jon, an aspiring musician. It wasn't until after the film that I realized he was Bill Weasley from Harry Potter. Opening the movie, Jon walks along the street trying to find inspiration in anything. He sees a woman in a red coat and attempts singing a tune. Nope. He looks at a band poster and hums a diddle. Nope. The entire audience chuckles watching the poor kid try to write a song. It's a plague that drives him through his journey. He just wants to be a songwriter. When he stumbles upon a keyboard gig in the band Soronprfbs, his world twists into a rock music fantasy. Frank, played by Fassbender, leads the band of misfits. Maggie Gyllenhaal is at her best as Clara, the sharp-tongued collaborator who is anti-mainstream to an extreme.

Scoot McNairy, who's been on the rise since his role in Argo, is the band manager Don. He's creepy but charismatic and somehow garners Jon's trust. When Jon is nearly kidnapped and taken to a lakeside house to record the album, he believes it's finally his chance to cultivate his artistry. You would suppose Frank would be the oddest of the bunch, given he eats liquid food through a tube and never takes off his head, even in the shower. But it's Jon who proves the most delusional.

He posts the band's rehearsals on YouTube, tweets like it's his job and is sure the Soronprfbs are destined for fame. He's the one that shall lead them to stardom! But Clara loathes Jon, warning him to stay away from Frank. She's more than just a collaborator, she's also a caretaker. Eventually Jon's greed for success puts the band in a compromising situation. When does like-ability trump music from the soul and when is it worth the sacrifice?

The movie takes risks. It's unafraid to explore an unconventional clan of characters. Like them, the film doesn't concern itself with the mainstream. Writers Jon Ronson (The Men Who Stare at Goats) and Peter Straughan (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Men Who Stare at Goats) found inspiration in a true story. Frank Sidebottom, the persona of real-life cult musician and comedian Chris Sievey, led The Freshies in the late 1970s and early 80s. The story, which begins light-hearted, unravels into a truly insightful exploration of identity, insecurity and ambition.

It's also bloody good fun.