Rarely have I laughed out loud so early in a film, but Lenny Abrahamson’s Frank immediately got to me with its narrator, Jon (Domhnall Gleeson), singing horrible lyrics to himself (“Lady in the red coat… what are you doing with that bag?”). He’s a desperate, aspiring musician who’s thrilled to stumble upon a band needing a keyboard player. And then things get even funnier.
The title character, Frank (Michael Fassbender), is the band’s lead singer, a troubled performer who never shows his face by wearing a large sort of head-piece mask. The face is hysterically off-putting every time it’s on screen. Early on Jon asks all the practical questions we as an audience are thinking, such as, how does Frank shave? Does he brush his teeth? Does he eat? And manager Don (Scoot McNairy) reminds us to not worry about that and go with it. So you do. The majority of the film takes place in a remote Irish cabin, with Frank tirelessly pushing his bandmates to reach perfection. His methods are as normal as his mask-wearing persona.
What holds the strangeness together is the spot-on casting of Fassbender and Gleeson. Fassbender makes you forget the entire body isn’t a cartoon, and his delivery of every line sounds so authentic. You fall for Frank without even seeing the looks on his face. I had seen Gleeson in a couple other movies (Never Let Me Go, About Time) and in each he is remarkably endearing. In Frank, and in Time, Gleeson makes an outrageous premise feel so natural thanks to his ability to make everything sound and look genuine. I’ve decided if Gleeson is cast, I want to see it. Meanwhile, Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Clara comes across as Margot Tenenbaum trying too hard. Oh well; you can’t win ’em all.
Frank feels so effortlessly funny– the mask, the lines (“chinchilla” as the group’s safe word), the songs. But it’s the performances that sell it. If you’re wanting a quiet, quirky, short (right at an hour and a half) movie, check out Frank. If you don’t love all of it, you’ll at least love a joke or two.