I’d been looking forward to Frank coming out on Blu-ray for months. When I first saw the trailer, I couldn’t see how it would work. How could you take the unique and cheesily funny persona of Frank Sidebottom and transplant his being into an American character totally unrelated to his life?
It seemed a bit disrespectful. After hearing and reading some very encouraging reviews (anything with the keywords surreal and quirky tends to pique my interest), I decided to give Frank a chance, and how glad am I that I did.
The central character of this film is not Frank but a wannabe musician called Jon. He works in an office, but has ambitions of being a singer-songwriter without the ability to match it. When the keyboardist of the Soronpfrbs tries to drown himself, Jon is offered the job on the spot by manager Don. A wild adventure in Ireland ensues to fulfil the objective of recording their first album.
It’s very easy to compare any music film to Spinal Tap, being what many see as the ultimate film about fictional musicians. Frank manages to carve its own niche in this genre. As well as the laugh-out-loud humour, there are some deeply moving scenes that touch on issues like mental illness and mediocrity. It attempts to tackle the issue of how a man who permanently wears a mask must live, the insecurities that brought that about and how they shape the life of an individual. It’ll make you laugh and cry.
Michael Fassbender (X-Men: First Class, Prometheus) proves why he is one of the best actors working today. You’ve never seen him like this before. Great comic timing, great voice, nails the quirkiness of the character right on the nubbin. I’d go and see this band if they toured. Domnhall Gleeson (About Time) is continuing to show great promise that his dad Brendan (Calvary, Harry Potter, In Brugge) will be proud of. He plays the straight man for most of the film, but his attempts at songwriting are simultaneously funny and pathos-generating. Maggie Gylenhaal (The Dark Knight, Secretary) also requires a mention as Clara, the Theremin and Moog expert who takes an instant dislike to new kid Jon, who she feels has invaded their little bubble of creative bliss.
The music played by the Soronprfbs is fantastic and is performed live. No miming on this one. Frank describes his creativity as being able to make a song about anything. He then proceeds to sing a spontaneous ditty about a tuft on the carpet. He sounds ridiculous writing it, but it’s genuinely moving. It is a real shame that they couldn’t put together a special edition of this release including the soundtrack.
Unfortunately, the rest of the features of this Blu-Ray are pretty bare. Yes, you may get two audio commentaries: one with the writers and one with director Lenny Abrahamson and star Gleeson but there’s only one 13-minute documentary about the film, which mainly discusses the themes and the quality of the script. It Would have been nice for them to have a feature about how the music was composed, and whether the actors could play instruments beforehand or if they had to learn for the part. They’ve missed a trick there.
This film is so good that it’s worth getting for that alone. Let go of any reservations you may have. Don’t be freaked out or put off by the mask. With this and Calvary, Ireland has contributed two of the best films of the year.
Last thing I want to say is how hard it was for me to find a copy of this film in the shops. No supermarkets I went to had it in stock: Asda, Morrisons, who usually have good supplies. HMV only had it on DVD. Disgraceful. Your best bet is Amazon. As the great Arnold Schwarzenegger would say, “Do it! Do it now!”