Here’s a movie that sounds fun and different:
It stars Micheal Fassbender, who plays an avant-garde comedian and musician loosely based on “Frank Sidebottom”, the alter ego of British comedian Chris Seivey. Throughout the movie, Fassbender wears a giant head with a cartoonish face painted on it–similar to the giant head worn by real Frank Sidebottom/Chris Seivey.
Fassbender’s character hires Jon, a young musician to play keyboards on his next album. The recording is done in a remote cabin in Ireland. Hoping that Frank’s talent will rub off on him, Jon obsessively hovers around Frank, trying to dissect his creative process. Maggie Gyllenhaal plays the drummer, who often locks horns with Jon.
The character of Jon is based on Jon Ronson, who in real life is the keyboard player on Frank Sidebottom’s album, which was recorded in a remote town in Ireland. The plot of the film is not what happened in real life. To see what the true story is, check out Jon Ronson’s book, “Frank: The True Story that Inspired the Movie.” (That is the title, I kid you not.)
Ironically, Jon Ronson co-wrote the screenplay.
In the movie Fassbender’s band is called “SORONPRFBS.” In real life the name was “Oh Blimey Big Band.” That goes to show how loosely it is based on real life.
Let’s turn to the reviews, shall we? Here are three reviews; I like how they all talk about the film’s theme:
1. Australian ABC
At the Movies with Margaret and David
This is the Australian Broadcast Network, not affiliated with the American Broadcast Company.
Review by Margaret Pomeranz
Spoilers: Aside from one comment that alludes to the outcome, the spoilers are harmless and help explain the plot.
Theme: The heart of the film is about this young man Jon who desperately wants access to the talent that Frank has, but maybe just doesn’t have what it takes. It’s also about mental illness and the layers that are needed to protect fragile psyches.
Bottom Line: “This film is a total original…. It’s funny, it’s poignant and really touching.”: “Terrific” acting, “beautiful” directing (by Lenny Abrahamson), coupled with a “just wonderful” star turn by Fassbender.
Note: Review wraps up with a warning that this film is for “more adventurous cinema-goers.”
(Not a great way to encourage people to see this film, not to mention get viewers to expand their horizons.)
Review by Bilge Ebiri
Spoilers: Chock full of them. I skipped over some parts. But I did get the gist of the review.
Theme: About the compromises and conflicts of art, stardom, and mental illness.
Bottom Line: [Fassbender’s acting] is a beautiful performance, and it makes this weirdly sincere and gentle film memorable….[and] seems to show his character’s ups and downs through his body language, reminiscent of creating art.
Comment:This review comes off as a tad pretentious in the way it talks about the Artiste and the creative process. But I’m a hypocrite because I love talking about the creative process (mine espeially…)!
3. Rolling Stone
Review by Peter Travers
Spoilers: Not bad until the last paragraph, which gives away the ending, and it sounds like no detail was spared. People, don’t read this review. Holy cow.
Theme: Frank’s mask, representing the artist as the anti-celebrity and a wall against social-media fame-whoring, is the film’s driving metaphor.
Bottom Line: He liked it a lot. I can’t quote him because his praises contain spoilers. Yeesh.
Comment: I went to Rolling Stone for a review because it covers rock music and pop culture, but was disappointed.