Sidebottom inspired film has a kooky charm

Michael Fassbender as Frank - Frank (2014), film still - photo courtesy of Cornerhouse

Michael Fassbender as Frank - Frank (2014), film still - photo courtesy of Cornerhouse

First published in News Messenger Newspapers: Photograph of the Author by , Arts Reporter

FRANK (15) has the warmth of a modern fairytale, subtle, inspired humour and yet, in places, is dark and disturbing.

The film was inspired by the Sidebottom character and I expect it to be a huge hit with his fans because it maintains a respectful distance between the original creation and the big screen version.

It celebrates what Frank Sidebottom stood for while not denting the mystique of the late Chris Sievey, the Timperley comedian responsible for first bringing the man in the mask to life.

We follow budding musician Jon - an outstanding Donhall Gleeson - who is roped in to playing keyboards for a band not exactly blessed with musical ability.

Things get particularly tense when the band decamps to remote rural Ireland to record an album and Jon memorably locks horns with the seriously scary band mate Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal).

But their major selling point is the group’s charismatic and mysterious front man Frank, who never takes off his giant mask. He eats and even showers in it for goodness sake.

The scene in which Jon accidentally walks in on him in the shower is one of the funniest scenes in the film.

Hollywood A-lister Michael Fassbender is captivating in the role, making full use of a script that is as hilarious as it is poignant. The screenplay, by Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan truly memorable and if you blink you’ll miss some of its cleverness on occasions.

And yes, there are times when you laughing out loud unsure if you really should be laughing or not. Take the scene where tragedy strikes for instance. I’m not going to reveal what exactly happens but it is both sad, surreal and very, very amusing.

I’ve always admired artists who tear up the rule book and dare to be different and this is a classy tribute to a comic creation that was a true original, a one off.

Frank might not be for everyone but I really enjoyed it, falling helplessly in love with its kooky charm. Like the character who inspired it, Frank is wonderfully different.

* Frank is on general release from May 16 and showing at Cornerhouse from May 23. The Cornerhouse box office number is 0161 200 1500. Star rating - ****

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