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Quebec Premiere
  • U.k.
  • 2014
  • 95 mins
  • DCP
  • English
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Official Selection, Sundance Film Festival 2014
Official Selection, Calgary Underground Film Festival 2014

“Weird and wonderful” – Lenny Debruge, VARIETY

“Deeply inventive, playful and idiosyncratic” – Rodrigo Perez, INDIEWIRE

Like so many other English lads, Jon Burroughs dreams of his music as a ticket out of a dull, dead-end office job. And like so many others, his music is, to put it charitably, nothing exceptional. The same cannot be said of Soronprfbs, the oddball band Jon stumbles across just as their keyboardist attempts suicide by drowning. Jon offers off the cuff to fill the spot and finds himself on stage that night, and in odd company — the frontman, Frank (Michael Fassbender), emerges masked by a giant plaster cartoon head, and he and his archly cool and arty cronies launch into a mess of noise that somehow gathers into a moment of musical bliss, interrupted by an exploding theremin. So with a bang begins Jon’s tragicomic odyssey into oddness, taking him to the wilds of Ireland to record an album and ultimately to SXSW, the annual indie-music Mecca in Texas.

With its dangerously dysfunctional members and defiantly counter-conventional ethos, Soronprfbs remains intact and even weirdly, wildly productive thanks to the enigmatic Frank. True, there’s something disturbing about his giant mask — he literally never removes it, not even in the shower. What’s going on in that head-in-a-head? The voice coming from inside however is wise, empathic, inspiring, possibly that of a musical genius destined for stardom. But will the band — and Frank himself — break out or break apart?

At once a tall tale and true story, FRANK is based in part of the experiences of it co-writer, journalist Jon Ronson (THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS), with late British musical eccentric Frank Sidebottom, never seen without his “head” on his shoulders. In a larger sense though, it’s a fraught and fiercely funny tribute to brilliant creative outsiders and the difficult directions the quest for expression can steer artists in. It’s not just a name easier to type or pronounce than “Soronprfbs” that has earned FRANK precisely the positive attention its semi-fictional band seeks. Its cast hasn’t hurt — Domhnall Gleeson of HARRY POTTER fame, award-winner Maggie Gyllenhaal and of course Fassbender, whose unforced efforts make a truly dynamic and engaging character of a man in an expressionless mask. Overall, though, FRANK hits all the right notes, even the harsh, unhappy ones, as it examines with subtle wit and substantial insight, the fine arts of fame and failure of finding fresh ideas and facing up to who you are.

— Rupert Bottenberg