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04 Sep 2014

The Madness of Art: 'Frank' Is Silly, but It Makes a Profound Point

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Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Fassbender and Domhnall Gleeson in Frank. Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Fassbender and Domhnall Gleeson in Frank.

Director Lenny Abrahamson has made a profound yet silly film about the soul-sucking madness that can come from the creation of art—as well as the perils of pursuing celebrity.

In Frank, Jon Burroughs (Domhnall Gleeson) clumsily tries to write music while living with his mom and dad in England. His attempts are pathetic—and he knows it. Jon happens upon a strange band, the Soronprfbs (yes, it’s impossible to pronounce), while their keyboardist is attempting to drown himself in the ocean. The band is fronted by Frank (Michael Fassbender), a possible musical genius who insists upon wearing a large mask with big bug eyes. He wears it all the time, whether he’s in public, performing or sleeping.

The character is based a bit upon Frank Sidebottom, the singing alter ego of the late British comedian Chris Sievey, who wore a mask similar to the one Fassbender wears in the film. Jon Ronson, a former member of Sidebottom’s band, co-wrote the script.

As terrific as Fassbender is, it is Gleeson (Bill Weasley in the Harry Potter movies) who commands most of the movie. Watching the previously grounded Jon nearly go insane is one of the film’s many pleasures. When Frank sings “I Love You All” in the final scene, he’s managed to create his most “likable” and accessible song yet—and it’s the catchy byproduct of madness, despair and the artistic birthing process.

Frank is now playing at the Cinémas Palme d’Or (72840 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-779-0430).

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