An aspiring musician is in over his head when he joins an eccentric
pop band whose lead singer wears an oversized fake head at all times.
Directed by Lenny Abrahamson
Written by Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan
Starring Domhnall Gleeson, Michael Fassbender, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Scoot McNairy, François Civil, Carla Azar
Based on the newspaper article by Jon Ronson
Frank is a bizarre little film that tries so hard to be the next Almost Famous that it ends up telling two completely different stories that never quite mesh. There's the story of Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) and his time in awe of Frank (Michael Fassbender), and then there's the story of how everybody in the band is actually just mentally ill and Jon takes advantage of them to further his own career. Both stories are engaging and well-acted, but they don't fit together into a narrative. And yet, the more I read about the inspiration for Frank, the more this story becomes crazier and crazier. You see, this was somewhat real in the 80's. Frank was a real singer in a real band, and this movie is inspired by him.
Jon is a keyboardist who is desperately searching for his creative muse. When he stumbles onto an up-and-coming pop band in need of a keyboardist, he joins them and plays a gig. There, he discovers the lead singer of the band, Frank, wears an oversized fake head that he never takes off. While the first half of the film treats Frank as a genius visionary on par with Andy Warhol or Jim Morrison, the reality of his life sets in during the second half. The truth is Frank is dangerously mentally ill and wearing the head is the only thing that helps him cope with the outside world. This depressing realization really discounts the rest of the film and turns Jon from an aspiring musician to a greedy conman taking advantage of a disturbed man. There's little comedy to be had in this situation and despite a powerful performance from Michael Fassbender, every character comes across as selfish, psychotic, or just plain unlikable.
I'm not exactly sure who the audience for Frank is supposed to be. It feels like every other indie film about music that's been released in the past ten years. Something for the millennials to enjoy that makes them feel special and different. I gotta say I'm sick of this subgenre of millennial pleaser films. Frank is unique, sure, but it never lives up to its premise's potential and oftentimes feels self-indulgent.