Friday, August 22, 2014

Frank



This review originally appeared on the San Francisco Appeal.

When I first heard of the movie Frank, back when it played the SFIFF, I thought it was a pretty insane concept for a movie: Michael Fassbender as the lead singer of an indie band who is always--always--wearing a giant paper mache head? I mean, ridiculous, right? Turns out, yes, it's still kind of ridiculous. But it's also partly based on fact! Writer Jon Ronson, (who is hilarious; read his books), was recruited in the 90's to join up with the band backing Chris Sievey, AKA Frank Sidebottom, a man with a giant paper mache head. Ronson later wrote about his experience, and that article has been adapted into the fictionalized Frank.

Alas, aside from the singer with the giant fake head, much of Frank is standard rags-to-near-riches-to-rags storytelling, with the indie band making terrible music, going viral, getting booked at SXSW, and then imploding. Michael Fassbender does a pretty good job of acting without a face, and Maggie Gyllenhaal is suitably pissed off and passionate as one of the band's keyboardists. And when you have a guy wearing a giant head, bits of slapstick are bound to happen; whether or not that counts as comedy depends on where you stand on the slapstick front, (I am vehemently pro). It's just too bad much of the music in the film, (aside from a great closing number), is entirely forgettable, and the answer behind the mystery of Frank and his head is a bit of a let-down.

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