It is a testament to the pulling power of an individual actor when a production shot of Michael Fassbender wearing a papier mâché mask was enough to make me actively seek out a film.
I never got around to watching the trailer but it didn’t matter as the combination of Domhnall Gleeson and Michael Fassbender was all it took for me to purchase a ticket.
It would be easy enough to overlook Frank in the listings on an average weekend but given that it opened opposite Godzilla I shouldn’t have been surprised at the empty screen.
PLOT: Young musician Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) stumbles upon an odd alternate group called Soronprfbs led by the equally odd Frank (Michael Fassbender). Using social media to build up the bands profile Jon encourages them to travel to America to play their first live gig at a music festival however when they arrive on US soil the band implodes due to the pressure to succeed. END PLOT
On the face of it Frank appears almost too quirky for its own good however as the film progresses it quickly finds its feet and it is easy to get sucked into the mad and destructive world of Soronprfbs.
Domhnall Gleeson is perfectly cast as the naïve and optimistic newcomer and on a first glance the bands’ reaction to his arrival seems inexplicably harsh. By the films end the emotional and mental problems of various group members are exposed in the most public of ways due to Jon’s desperation to succeed which suddenly places the emphasis on Jon’s selfishness. Frank has a surprisingly complex script which needs to be viewed from both Jon and the bands point of view, particularly Clara's (Maggie Gyllenhaal), to be fully appreciated.
Michael Fassbender spends the vast majority of the film behind his mask and has some very comedic moments when he starts narrating his facial expressions. Frank at the beginning of the film is light hearted and fun but in the closing scene his body expressions have become so closed off and awkward it is almost uncomfortable to watch. It is a brilliant performance from Fassbender. The closing scene when Soronprfbs play their first gig is emotional and I found myself willing them on.
The supporting cast of Maggie Gyllenhaal and the ever present Scoot McNairy are also on top form and add different dimensions to the mentally unsound bunch of musicians. Gyllenhaal's performance of Clara gets better every time I think about her.
The cast and script of Frank are excellent and although the premise is undoubtedly ridiculous the film has more than enough heart to see it through. It does become genuinely sad that a group of misfits have their happy existence torn apart by one man’s desperation to have his music heard.
To those of you who saw Godzilla this weekend I don’t doubt you had a marvellous time but I saw the better film. Frank gets 9/10. I may be biased but it is so good to see Irish cinema having a strong run….mostly thanks to the Gleeson family.