SXSW Film Review: 'Frank'

Michael Fassbender rewrites an icon of British outsider art

Some say it's a thin line between untrammeled creativity and madness. But what if the difference is just context?

Take Frank (Michael Fassbender). If he wore a giant plastic head, and worked as a welder, he'd be seeing a shrink in minutes. But within his weird art collective/avant garde pop band, he's a genius tinkerer with sound. And a giant plastic head.

There was a real Frank – British oddball Frank Sidebottom, a loopy cousin to equally mysterious bands like the Residents. Based loosely on an autobiographical article by Jon Ronson (The Men Who Stare at Goats) about his time in Sidebottom's band, Frank is a Gondry-esque meditation on commerce, art, and the self-destructive nature of outlandish creativity. Most importantly, it's about the perils of not understanding the delicacy of genius. The script, co-written with Peter Straughan, makes the Ronson analog Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) the real menace, as his fannish and well-intended aspirations to genius – and to misguidedly unwrap the mystery of Frank – threaten to drag the maestro into tepid mediocrity.

In contrast, Scoot McNairy as engineer/manager Don is the damaged hero, crushed under the burden of knowing he can never match Frank's strange genius.

Topping it all is Fassbender's performance, a work of fragile wonder that hides nothing behind the blank eyes and enlarged cranium. Yet there's a strange resonance for anyone who knows the real Frank's work. This Frank-not-Frank is like putting two black disc ears on a mouse and expecting the audience to not think "Mickey."


Frank


Festival Favorites
Thursday, March 13, 4pm, Topfer

READ MORE
More South by Southwest
SXSW Expands SouthBites Programming
SXSW Expands SouthBites Programming
David Chang announced as featured speaker

Brandon Watson, Sept. 30, 2014

Two More Acquisitions for SXSW Alumni
Two More Acquisitions for SXSW Alumni
'Honeymoon' and 'Thank You a Lot' picked up

Monica Riese, March 28, 2014

More by Richard Whittaker
Tabletop Games for the Holidays
Tabletop Games for the Holidays
Whether you’re a neophyte or a gaming guru, we’ve got you covered

Dec. 9, 2016

AISD Board Considers Futures for Underused Facilities
AISD Board Considers Futures for Underused Facilities
The district’s property portfolio has become an increasingly pressing matter

Dec. 9, 2016

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

South by Southwest, SXSW, SXSW 2014, SXSW Film 2014, Frank, Festival Favorites, Narrative Feature, Lenny Abrahamson, Michael Fassbender, Scoot McNairy, Dohmnall Gleeson, Peter Straughan, review, Frank Sidebottom

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2017

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)