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Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Fassbender (centre) and Domhnall Gleeson in a scene from “Frank,” opening in Toronto and Vancouver Friday.


2.5 out of 4 stars

Written by
Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan
Directed by
Lenny Abrahamson
Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal

In Frank, the old cliché of getting inside an artist's head acquires a conspicuously literal dimension.

Michael Fassbender plays the titular musician-eccentric, head hidden inside of an enormous papier-mâché mask.

Eager to get behind the mask is Jon (Domhnall Gleeson), a young conscript hired to play keys in Frank's band, the Soronprfbs. Sequestered in the Irish countryside, Jon squirms under Frank's leadership, while clashing with the group's snarling thereminist (Maggie Gyllenhaal).

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Under his unchanging, Pringles Man-ish headgear – inspired by Frank Sidebottom, singer/mascot of the Manchester punk outfit The Freshies – Frank's a knotty mess of quirk, idiosyncrasy and straight-up mental illness.

In fudging this line between quirky and crazy, Frank is less than sensitive to the sorts of troubled outsider artists it draws inspiration from (Daniel Johnston, Captain Beefheart, etc.), almost unknowingly reproducing the boring fetish of mental illness as some font of uncorrupted creativity.

Still: the Soronprfbs may be the best fake on-screen punk band since the Stains.

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