Review: Frank

Michael Fassbender, Dmhnall Gleeson, and Maggie Gyllenhaal star in a film written by Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan and directed by Lenny Abrahamson.

Domhnall (Bill Weasley) Gleeson stars in what is probably the best cast rock ‘n’ roll art film since Velvet Goldmine or I’m Not Here. Unlike those two baroque outings, however, this one lives up to its hipster star power, starting with the principles. Gleeson plays an ordinary English kid obsessed with songwriting but short on actual talent. He’s accidentally thrown together with an avant garde rock outfit fronted by a man calling himself Frank (Michael Fassbender!) who always wears a giant cardboard head. That’s right: one of the handsomest leading men available is reduced to an enigmatic mask. His female counterpart, the hard-edged Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal) plays the theremin, and her solo incantation of “On Top of Old Smoky” is easily the movie’s weirdest cool moment.

By now you’ve probably guessed that Frank’s true glory is its unpredictability — it’s a cliché-free zone where funny and tragic keep changing places. There’s also a remarkable distance between the revelations of the story and anything like a moralizing voice. We’re sure when we see Jon (Gleeson) initially rejected by his demented bandmates, it’s their problem. By the end it’s more difficult to decide who is right and who is wrong.

Not to be missed, this film is full of cult riches, but feels like a weird documentary. The indie rock world, from little clubs to dazed-out moments in Austin’s South by Southwest, is preserved here by this fictional band. It’s the bittersweet monument that contemporary rock deserves.

To submit a comment on this article, email or visit our Facebook page. To submit information to a reporter, email

Be succinct, constructive, and relevant to the story. Leaving a comment means you agree to our Discussion Guidelines. We like civilized discourse. We don't like spam, lying, profanity, harassment or personal attacks.

comments powered by Disqus
event calendar sponsored by:

Carpinterians Gather to Protest Border Policy

'Families are the building block of our entire society,' said Carpinteria Mayor Fred Shaw.

Vampire Weekend Plays for 805UndocuFund This Weekend

Will match up to $10,000 in donations for Libbey Bowl concert.

Immigration Raids Chill Santa Barbara County Community

A quiet has settled over Old Town Goleta after at least five people were grabbed by ICE ...

Seasoned Bandit’ Said to Suffer the ‘Lottery Curse’

Tip led to bank robber James Hayes, who'd hit four Santa Barbara County banks, and six others.

FEMA Reveals New Map for Montecito, Carpinteria Valley

Property owners wishing to rebuild must avoid flooding from 100-year storms.