'Frank' review: Michael Fassbender wears a papier-mâché head for 90 weird mins
This off-beat and endearing comedy proves - if nothing else - the Oscar-nominated and blockbuster popcorn movie actor has definitely not sold out.
In short: An office drone/wanna-be musician (Domhnall Gleeson) accidentally joins an obscure, eccentric pop band led by the charismatic Frank (Michael Fassbender), an enigmatic man who never takes off his oversized papier-mâché head. (Watch the trailer)
Just about every aspect of this idiosyncratic indie flick falls into the bucket of "unconventional." Frank's band has the unpronounceable name "Soronprfbs" and the first band member who appears on screen attempts suicide. Frank's apparent second-in-command and love interest (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is an aggressive musician who rocks the theremin - an instrument known more for its novelty than its widespread popularity. Oh, and a running narrative device throughout film comes in the form of Gleeson's tweets, which pop up on screen and reveal his private thoughts about this peculiar band.
Then there's Frank. He's a visionary artist who taps into his creativity via primal screaming and finds inspiration in the tactile. He never takes off his papier-mâché head - even while showering. And the fact that he spent some time in a mental institution makes Frank a wild card whose actions, thoughts and lyrics mystify everyone around him.
Beneath the fake head and the layers of quirk is a wildly enjoyable and weird celebration of artistic expression, inspiration and creation. "Frank" is at its best when as the musicians struggle to write songs and endure endless song rehearsals. Frank is an oddly inspirational character who - in his own odd manner - is a true leader who pushes the boundaries of art. He is a character who is completely comfortable wearing an awkwardly large fake head and playing small gigs throughout Ireland because the he is playing the absurd song within his bizarre mind.
And Michael Fassbender deserves a ton of credit for his performance as the captivating and possibly unhinged band leader of the Soronprfbs. He is a rock star on stage, absolutely engaging as an experimental artist and quite charming as a sensitive man who wears a fake head for more than artistic reasons. Fassbender is pitch perfect as the relentless and driven leader who pushes his band members toward new artistic horizons, while also effortlessly tapping into the character's soft spoken and even timid moments. He creates a compelling and complex character in what is essentially a voiceover performance for a live-action character.
The first two acts of this electric, odd comedy are exciting and fun. This journey of a small band's struggle to perfect every single note for their forthcoming album is compelling and entertaining. And then the third act rolls around - and "Frank" veers away from a film about artistic expression and focuses solely on the unbalanced, unpredictable titular character. Frank is a such an elemental and intriguing character -- but this film does everything to unravel who he is, effectively depleting the character.
The resolution is so clunky and contrasts so sharply from the rest of the film that it actually brings the overall score of this otherwise brilliant film down. Although "Frank" doesn't stick the landing, this edgy and eccentric indie film is an overall refreshing jolt of energy.
Final verdict: This odd, quirky movie about creating art and slap at commercial music is pretty delightful - even if it gets a little shaky near the end. "Frank" is a wildly delightful punk story of creating and expression.
"Frank" opens in limited release in the U.S. on Aug. 22 and is rated R for language and some sexual content.