Sundance 2014 had a loaded schedule of top notch films, Lenny Abrahamson’s pleasantly weird dark comedy Frank, among them.
Frank is the story of Jon, played by Harry Potter alumn Domhnall Gleeson, a young songwriter brought into the fold of a quirky noise rock band called Soronprfbs, led by singer Frank (Michael Fassbender), who perpetually wears a giant papier-mâché head. Quirky and whimsical as he is, the talented Frank is saddled with some pretty heavy issues. Jon moves to Ireland to record an album with the band, posting rehearsal videos on social media, with the aim of getting Frank and his musical cohorts a spot at Austin’s South by Southwest.
Check out the trailer below.
Abrahamson’s film is a fictionalized portrayal of the late English musician and comedian Chris Sievey’s stage persona, Frank Sidebottom, co-written by Sievey’s bandmate Jon Ronson, who also penned the novel The Men Who Stare at Goats, which was later adapted to film in 2009. The story originally began as a biopic of the Sidebottom character before transforming into the draft Abrahamson put to film. Sievey’s Frank Sidebottom act was a career resurgence in the late ’80s and early ’90s, having first led the punk pop band The Freshies through the ’70s and early ’80s.
About the shift from straight up biopic to quirky, character driven dark comedy, Ronson said, “We wanted to make a tribute to the people on the margins of the music scene.”
Maggie Gyllenhall originally turned down the role of Clara, noting an initial lack of understanding of the film and the strange characters that inhabit it. Said Gyllenhall, “I didn’t understand it at all. It took me a while to understand the tone.” With the script still on her mind weeks later, Gyllenhaal contacted Abrahamson and informed him of her change of heart in taking the role. Not all were so on the fence, as 12 Years a Slave’s Scoot McNairy enthusiastically recalls, “I just thought it was very weird and bizarre, and I was like, ‘Sign me up!'”
In addition to playing their respective parts, the cast sang and played their own instruments for the film, with everything being performed live. “There was no playback,” said Abrahamson.
There is currently no release date announced for the U.S. from Magnolia Pictures as of yet, but Frank will be playing, not-so coincidentally, at this year’s upcoming SXSW, the film portion of which begins today, and runs through the 17th.