Most movies that get made about a rock band follow the same typical formula: the band gets together, they hit it big, and then that success breeds personal demons that tear them apart right at the moment when they achieve what was supposed to be their dream. Frank, which comes to us from director Lenny Abrahamson and a script by Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan (The Men Who Stare at Goats), subverts that formula. Instead, it looks at a young band whose members are already consumed and defined by their personal demons, even before they achieve any sort of notoriety, which makes for a story that’s far more madcap, and ultimately bittersweet, than any of those rise-and-fall rock-and-roll stories of substance abuse and excess. Frank starts at the point where most of these movies end, so it ends up being able to take us someplace we’ve never before been.
The eccentric band who serve as the protagonists, an experimental number called Soronprfbs, are made up of new keyboardist Jon (Domhnall Gleeson), who is the most mundane of the group, and who serves as the eyes through which we discover their world, a consistently exasperated and painfully French guitarist named Baraque (François Civil), a silent but soulful drummer named Nana (Carla Azar), an intense taskmistress who plays the theremin named Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal), Don (Scoot McNairy), who is the mannequin-molesting lieutenant to the band’s lead singer, and said lead singer, Frank (Michael Fassbender), who obsessively wears a giant, creepy, expressionless fake head every moment of every day, and refuses to take it off. That’s an eccentric cast of characters brought to life by a charismatic cast of performers, and the ways in which they alternately bump up against each other and come together over the course of the film are a large part of what makes Frank such an entertaining movie. It’s filled with chaos and humor, and it even manages to be touching a time or two.