I was really looking forward to this. One of my childhood friends was in a great band called Sometimes Frank. And hearing the premise was about a nutty lead singer that wears a big mask over his head, was rather intriguing. I thought about the nut jobs in music history; Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd (who is mentioned briefly), Sid Vicious (no, the nuts weren’t all named Sid)…or the guys in bands that weren’t nutty but had weird stage antics or costumes covering their faces: GWAR., the Aquabats, KISS, and locals The Creepy Creeps and Locust.
Groups like WASP have their fans throw raw meat at them. We’ve also had the few (Alice Cooper and Ozzy Osbourne), that have bitten the heads off various animals.
The lead singer of this fictional band gives us one of the rare performances were Michael Fassbender shows absolutely no emotion, and his facial expression never seems to change.
It’s a bit of a gimmick for Lenny Abrahamson to cast an A-lister, simply to cover his head the entire movie. Now, some might say the same when it came to Scarlett Johansson being cast as the voice in Her. Yet that movie let’s the audience imagine her, and perhaps makes the story a little easier to swallow. In this movie, we just wonder how Frank ever swallows. He never takes the head off, even when he’s eating. None of that really makes sense because, we learn that he’s from a mental institution (as were the other band members). Yet if he had some social anxiety, that would be fine. It wouldn’t explain why he needs to wear it when he’s by himself.
The few things we learn about these people is either uninteresting or unbelievable. For example, Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) is the protagonist. He’s a keyboardist and wannabe songwriter. Yet his attempts at writing a song in the beginning were utterly ridiculous. It’s something a 10-year-old would do. He sees a woman walk by and writes down, “There goes a woman in a coat, a woman in a coat, in a long coat.” A bird flies overhead and he’s writing “There is a bird, up in the air.”
If he is this bad, why is he pursuing this as a career?
And why when he sees a poster for this wacky band of misfits (not to be confused with The Misfits)…is he so drawn to them? This movie would’ve been so much better if it started with the band already having a certain degree of fame. It could’ve been the same set up, where Jon sees them at the beach and the keyboard player goes nutso, and he talks his way into the band. He hopes the elusive lead singer opens up, or that he can at least see him without his mask on, etc.
This movie is so bad that even the name of the band isn’t interesting – The Soronprfbs. This band includes Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal, who is showing about as much emotion as Frank’s plaster head), Baraque (Francois Civil), who always seems a bit down. There’s the drummer Nana (Carla Azar), and a manager named Don (Scoot McNairy).
When the band travels the British countryside in their van, and takes up residency in a cabin they’re using to record their record, I had hopes things would get better.
Instead, the attempt to make these characters so strange was just annoying.
It’s fun to read about Fleetwood Mac spending a year trying to make an album – with all the drugs, relationships, etc. Watching a bunch of mental patients – not so much. It was fun in One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, mildly interesting in It’s Kind of a Funny Story (Zach Galifianakas), but it isn’t in this picture.
We’re supposed to believe that Jon would take his entire savings and let the band use it for the recording process. Also, we’re hearing these songs being recorded. Shouldn’t we think they’re amazing? A few were kind of interesting. One sounded like a mash-up of early Pink Floyd, Velvet Underground, The Doors, with a touch of Boris and Raveonettes. Mostly, it was just noise.
One direction (no boy band reference intended) the movie took could’ve been great. Jon started blogging about the band, and they get a decent amount of followers. This leads to them playing the popular South by Southwest festival in Texas.
The entire premise for this was loosely based on a British musician named Chris Sievey. He dabbled in comedy, and created an alter ego named Frank Sidebottom. The movie was co-written by Jon Ronson, a journalist who often wrote about him and other weird figures in the world of pop culture.
I hated three things about the characters. One was the arc they went with Frank. He starts to become likeable and wants to write songs with Jon. It would’ve been more interesting to have an air of mystery about him. The second thing was the Gyllenhaal character. It’s so cliché and ridiculous to make her so angry. The performance felt forced and wasn’t the least bit interesting.
Then there’s Jon. His character goes into a direction that is all over the map. One moment he seems thoughtful. A few scenes later, insensitive. He also has to be the most naïve guy that’s ever been in a band.
At one point in the movie, I thought about real-life guitarist Buckethead. For those that don’t know, he dabbles in heavy metal and classical, and is really good. He wears a KFC bucket over his head when he plays, and as he signs autographs after the show. Everyone wonders what he looks like or what his real name is. During this movie, I felt like taking my popcorn bucket and placing it over my. I was so bored, I left when it only had 15 minutes left.
Listen, you can’t be fooled by the critics that are going to praise this as art. They’re the same ones that tricked you into seeing Lars and the Real Girl. I’m guessing the blow-up doll from that movie is one of Frank’s groupies.
This is going to go on my “worst of the year” list.
0 stars out of 5.