24/05/2014

I went to the cinema and saw Frank

How to describe Frank? Well, he's a man without a surname between the ages of 30 and 50, is the lead singer of a band with an unpronounceable name and oh yes, he wears a fake head for (initially) unexplained reasons. These facts don't go unnoticed by Jon, a man so desperate to be a songwriter despite clearly having zero talent. He stands around trying to summon lyrics in his head ("Woman in the red coat, where'd you get that bag?") and when he rushes home to flush out a song idea, he quickly realises that his supposed idea is a Madness song he heard someone listing to on the bus. Things quickly change when he witnesses a man try to drown himself who turns out to the be the keyboardist for The Soronprfbs, and as Jon plays the keyboard he takes the opportunity and joins them.

Jon, as endearingly pathetic as he is, is clearly the mainstream adversary of a band as unique and insane as them. Random lyrics, booming drums and a theremin are the backbone of the band and while it's interesting to hear, it doesn't exactly sell records, so Jon sees another opportunity and tries to water down their sound while posting clips of them at work on YouTube. His sly moves don't go unseen by Frank's right-hand woman and player of the aforementioned theremin, Clara, the aggressive American I wish I was in my dreams. Played with blank-faced fury by Maggie Gyllenhaal, Clara doesn't think twice about throwing things at her bandmates or punching (and stabbing) people who piss her off. Although she's unnecessarily mean to Jon, she wafts around in a bra, psychedelic trousers and vintage dressing gown, smokes more than she eats and spews profanities all the time. This woman is my hero.

But of course, we must address the star of the band and the film. Thankfully for those like myself who know nothing of Chris Sievey and his creation needn't worry about failing to understand the film because it's not about Frank Sidebottom. Other musicians I've never heard of like Captain Beefheart and Daniel Johnston are a source of inspiration but Frank encapsulates them all with his outsider spirit and avant-garde tendencies. At first I thought only a sick fuck would put Michael Fassbender on screen and cover his face, but the casting is kind of genius. After an Oscar nomination and starring roles in two massive franchises he could could've done anything, so the fact that he agreed to this film simply because the script made him laugh is genuinely impressive. Knowing he's under there is at first a distraction but eventually his movie star presence is forgotten under the creepy head as his mannerisms and surprisingly good singing voice forge the character. Fassbender doesn't need facial expressions because he's that damn good.

Jon's preoccupation with Twitter followers (Example tweet: "Cheese and ham panini. #nomnomnom") instead of pushing himself and his music isn't a particularly subtle nod to the music industry but either way it works. Frank isn't as funny as it probably should be but it was aiming for weird and wonderful, and it's that in spades.