Frank Sidebottom was the alter ego of Chris Sievey. Or more correctly, Chris Sievey was the alter ego of Frank Sidebottom. Frank, with his cheap suits, nasally voice and, oh yes, his oversized Papier Mâché head, will be unfamiliar to audiences outside of the UK. Something which is likely to change with the release of Frank, Michael Fassbender’s latest; directed by Lenny Abrahamson.
Co-written by Jon Ronson, a member of Frank’s original entourage, Frank takes its inspiration from the man from Timperley (that’s a town in Cheshire for those of you not in the know), but pins it down with a large fictional nail. Domhnall Gleeson plays Jon; an office worker with desires to be the next big singer songwriter. His ‘big break’ arrives when he is asked to play keyboards for Soronpfbs; a band consisting of extroverts, mutes and mad people. All of whom idealise Frank (Michael Fassbender); their softly spoken perma-masked lead singer.
Fassbender is superb as the titular Frank, seemingly more emotive whilst wearing the mask and having to say his facial expressions out loud. Maggie Gyllenhaall plays his aggressively violent and emotional sidekick. Immediately mistrusting of Jon, this is one of Gyllenhaal’s best performances since Secretary.
‘You’re just gonna have to go with it,’ says Don (Scoot McNairy), the band’s manager, when Jon questions him about the logistics of wearing a mask 24 hours a day. A statement that becomes the film’s mantra. You’re either going to accept the next 90 minutes or your not. If you do, you’re letting yourself in for a heart-burstingly warm film that touches on the deconstruction of fame, the idea of identity and chasing after your band mates with a shovel.