Frank, film review: Michael Fassbender is as dark and brooding as ever

(15) Lenny Abrahamson, 95 mins Starring: Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Scoot McNairy

Lenny Abrahamson’s comedy-drama, co-written by Jon Ronson, captures brilliantly the anxiety, narcissism and long periods of boredom and inertia that go along with being in an indie band. 

Domhnall Gleeson plays  a young musician recruited to join the “Soronprfbs” after the keyboardist tries to drown himself.

The band is fronted by “Frank” (inspired by Frank Sidebottom), who never takes off his papier-mâché mask. The band spend months in  a rural retreat in Ireland  trying to record an album before, largely thanks to Jon’s efforts on social media, they are invited to the South by Southwest festival in Texas.

The tone of the film is disconcerting. You expect Monkees-style whimsy but Frank is as dark and brooding in its storytelling as its band leader (Michael Fassbender) is in his behaviour.

This is a very dysfunctional band. Maggie Gyllenhaal is an incongruous presence as the belligerent theremin player Clara. “Frank, for all his issues, is 100 per cent the sanest cat I’ve ever met,” the manager says of the frontman. The irony is that for all his foibles, Frank does indeed have an integrity (and a talent) that far exceeds that of any of the other musicians here.

The film isn’t as funny as might have been expected and the final-reel revelations risk undermining its mystique. Its attitude toward the music business is hard to surmise. We are never sure if it is satire or a celebration of offbeat  genius. And yet, for all its dissonances, Frank is provocative and affecting. Fassbender’s rousing rendition of “I Love You All” suggests he could have an alternative career if the acting parts dry up.

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