Frank is a delightful navel-gaze at the festival circuit, music, and the creative impulse (real or imagined). It is, at turns, funny, sad, inspiring, and demoralizing. Its entirely self-referential shtick is what makes it work. What makes it even odder is that it is based on the true story of Chris Sivey, a largely UK phenomena.
The cast is uniformly talented without ever overshadowing their characters. Fassbender (X-Men: Days of Future Past) tackles the lead with enthusiasm and depth, bringing the fiberglass head to life. But Frank couldn’t have worked from an insider view; it would have been too close to the subject, too much to explain. Instead, we watch Frank and the band through Gleeson’s (About Time) eyes, who brings our perspective to the story and a quiet wonder and bafflement to the film. Supporting the main story, Gylenhaall (The Honourable Woman) hits the screen with a fiery intensity in a wonderful role that is far from her more typically genteel characters. And McNairy (12 Years a Slave) provides a great mirror for Gleeson.
The journey Gleeson and the band take us on shifts and changes as the story unfolds. It is both satire and insider, honest and ironic. It remains entertaining throughout and touching at moments you won’t expect.
Abrahamson directed Ronson and Straughan’s script, the writing duo behind The Men Who Stare at Goats, with a deft, nonjudgmental hand. In some ways it brought to mind a less manipulative Silver Linings Playbook. It was certainly funnier and, at least for me, carrying a more interesting message and number of levels. And the music is surprisingly good… you want to hear the album this gang of creative misfits puts together. Perhaps a better reference is to say it is a more plot-whole version of Sound of Noise, a very different take on the creative impulse, and much less reality-bound.
Whatever aspects of Frank inspire or connect with you, it is a wonderfully odd journey and one worth taking.