Frank Review NZIFF

Frank is the film where Michael Fassbender wears a bigĀ paper mache head for 99% of it. It’s also a story about friendship, mental illness, creativity and above all music.

Frank is an eccentric comedy about eccentric people. Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) is an aspiring musician who accidentally on purpose ends up working with a group of odd ball musicians who are led by Frank. Frank wears a big fake head ALL THE TIME. Yet he is personable, enigmatic, inspiring and loving. This journey takes Jon to Ireland for a long enough time to grow an impressive beard, and culminates in the US where we get closer to discovering the truth of Frank’s reality behind the mask. Within the tensions of the band’s dynamic, Jon is often on the wrong side of the antagonistic Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal), whose distrust of him erupts into jealously, and a heightened obsession with Frank.

The character of Frank is based on the British cult hero Frank Sidebottom, probably the oddest pop star in history. The film is co-written by Jon Ronson who played with Sidebottom’s band, Oh Blimey Big Band. However this is not the Frank Sidebottom story, butĀ  more a tribute to a wonderfully weird real life character.

Almost from the offset there is a tone of sadness within this comedy, as individuals all fight their own battles. It’s also very funny, it’s amazing how charismatic Fassbender is as the camouflaged Frank. There’s an air of Almost Famous, as the slightly geeky Jon tries to fit in with these unconventional pop musicians.

Fassbender really does deserve all the praise he has received for this. Forced to use all other means to communicate with the audience, his mannerisms and body language speaks volumes for this troubled genius.

Musically this film is also rather special. Having the cast play the instruments for real, and carefully selecting excellent songs to feature, helps create the riotous mayhem of this band’s creative process. However, the most poignant song of all must be ‘I Love You All’. Lenny Abrahamson direction creates a personal and fly on the wall type environment. that reveals just enough of what we need to know.

This unorthodox story will leave your heart warm and your feet tapping. An instant cult composition.

You can see Frank in Auckland 30 and 31 July and various dates around the country as part of NZIFF.

Reviewed by Ingrid Grenar

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