Frank (2014)

Lenny Abrahamson directs Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson, and Maggie Gyllenhaal in this “band of outsiders fall apart” rock comedy that co-opts the Frank Sidebottom iconography.

I read a lot of praise for Fassbender’s performance, allegedly he’s superlative in and out of the fake head. You’re all playing a practical joke on me. ANYONE COULD PLAY THIS ROLE!? Maybe not Jimmy Krankie… but still!? Some of the music is good but otherwise this is 140 minutes of meandering hipster posturing. Scriptwriter Jon Ronson was a keyboard player for Chris Sievey (real life 80s local hero who wore a papier-mâché head, sang kitchen sink ditties on his ukulele and appeared on Fantasy Football). But this ain’t the Frank Sidebottom your mother knows. It is Ronson’s backing member fantasies of fame and recognition sifted through an unrecognisable band… closer to Daniel Johnson or Pink Floyd than the silly human cartoon cultural footnote from my childhood. It doesn’t claim to be a biography of Sievey but doesn’t offer anything more exciting instead. So what’s the point of it? Apart from maybe to elevate an already successful author’s what-ifs into becoming the cinematic legend of record. After all most people are only going to know Frank Sidebottom from this and assume he was a tortured difficult genius, unrecognised and self-destructive. And his temporary keyboard player was the Svengali behind their almost success.


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One comment

  1. Paul. Writer and Filmmaker · June 25, 2020

    I can see from your review why you didn’t enjoy the film, especially with Jon Ronson (whose writing I really like), placing himself at the centre of the narrative. However, I viewed the film as nothing really to do with Frank Sidebottom, but instead a compelling examination of mental illness. As an exploration of the fine line between genius and madness the film really works for me. It also called out to that “failed” creative in me too. I mean pretty much most of the artistic ventures (comedy, writing, being in a band etc.) I attempt tend NOT, for a myriad of reasons, to achieve wide success. That doesn’t matter at all as my life is good, but that outsider/loser theme resonated with me in FRANK. Especially when he is singing that final song in the dive bar at the end. I mean, I have done many out of town comedy gigs with three drunks and a dog in attendance and wondered: “Am I actually mad?”

    Liked by 1 person

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