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Film / Frank

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A 2014 British-Irish comedy-drama, inspired by the writer's experiences with the persona of comedic avant-garde musician, Frank Sidebottom, and directed by Lenny Abrahamson.

The protagonist is Jon, a young, aspiring, social networking-savvy musician who finds himself enlisted into an avant-garde band named "Soronprfbs", led by an eccentric, enigmatic figure by the name of Frank—an ambitious artist who seeks to reinvent music, and rather strikingly, constantly hides his face inside a large papier-maché head.

Not to be confused with the 1973 experimental animated short, Frank Film.

This movie contains examples of the following:

  • Adaptational Nationality: Frank is from Kansas, while the "real" Frank Sidebottom was British.
  • Atomic F-Bomb: An escalating argument between Jon and Clara climaxes with Jon loudly shouting, "CUUUUUUUUNT!".
  • Badass Bookworm: Frank is a shy and reclusive artist, but he's actually pretty tough. During his intensive training of the band, he teaches them self defense and puts Jon in a chokehold. He's also good at fighting off people who try to take his mask off.
  • Berserk Button: Touching Clara's Theremin, or asking Frank to take his mask off.
  • Beautiful All Along: With his mask removed, Frank is revealed to be rather handsome as you'd expect due to being played by Michael Fassbender, though the heavy scars on his forehead and his own inexpressiveness somewhat sully it.
  • Better the Devil You Know: Clara may act like a Jerkass toward them (as she does to almost everyone else, especially Jon), but Nana and Baraque would rather leave the band than play a gig without her. Especially since Jon's actions, not to mention the fact that she stabbed Jon in the leg, led to her arrest shortly before the SXSW gig.
  • Bilingual Dialogue: One member of the band only speaks French in response to English. If it's actually important for Jon to understand, he can speak English.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Jon comes off initially as a somewhat pretentious but otherwise well meaning guy who genuinely wants to spread Frank's music with the rest of the world. As the film continues, it becomes more and more obvious that he was merely using Frank's quirks as a means of living out his own dreams of fame.
  • Book Ends: Jon's walk around his town (nearly getting hit by a child on a bicycle and passing a man washing his car who waves at him) is repeated in the end when Jon goes to Bluff, KS.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Invoked before it's viciously deconstructed and then averted. At first, Frank seems like a perfect example of this trope and it's what attracts Jon and others to him, seemingly believing that his bizarre behavior means he must also be exceptionally talented. However, as the film goes on, it gradually becomes clear that Frank isn't just quirky or a harmless eccentric but seriously mentally ill and in dire need of help. The finale even makes a point of saying that he was always a musical prodigy and his mental health struggles have, if anything, badly impeded his musical skills and potential rather than amplified them.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: The film starts off as a lighthearted, whimsical comedy about an avant-garde rock band with an enigmatic leader, but takes a turn for the dramatic around the time of Frank's Heroic BSoD.
  • Character Blog: Jon narrates the movie by way of various social media outlets. The usernames seen on screen are indeed visible online, out-of-universe.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Frank's spare head, which is later used to mislead the audience into believing that Frank may have killed himself when it was actually Don wearing it
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: The title character, in spite of what Don, the band's manager, says. For one thing, he never takes the mask off, not even to eat solids or when he's in the shower. He claims that regular human faces are too weird in and of themselves. Played for drama later on as the depths of his illness and its damaging effects on his life and talent have had become clear.
  • Drag Queen: Frank ends up adopting this aesthetic for the unplugged performance in Austin, not only by way of wearing a dress, but also by painting eyelashes and larger lips on his mask.
  • Driven to Suicide: The previous keyboard player of Soronprfbs was trying to drown himself by the time Jon first came across the band. Don, the manager, who started out as the band's keyboard player, commits suicide later in the film and is given a Viking funeral.
  • Dysfunctional Family: Soronprfbs, in spades. With Jon as the almost literal Red-Headed Stepchild, an office worker/amateur musician (and not a very good one) interloping in their hipster world.
  • The Faceless: Frank wears a fake head at all times. No one in the band has ever seen his face.
  • Fan Nickname: In-universe, Jon ends up becoming known as "the chinchilla guy", thanks to his postings of the Soronprfbs rehearsals online.
  • Fish out of Water: Jon, being a regular Joe with an office job who just so happens to be passionate about his hobby as an amateur musician. He joins a band of musical lifers and Cloudcuckoolanders with questionable social skills, but ultimately decides that that life is not for him as he helps Frank reunite with his bandmates, but chooses to walk away afterward. Though it's not like the rest of Soronprfbs would have wanted him back anyway.
  • Freudian Excuse: Jon finds out when he meets Frank's parents that there isn't actually a traumatic incident that caused Frank to wear the mask.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: It's incredibly easy to get on Clara's bad side. She even stabs Jon in the leg at one point.
  • Hand Wave: Jon has a lot of questions about how Frank lives without ever taking his head off. Don explains a few things, then just tells him not to worry about it.
  • Heel Realization: While he cannot be considered villainous, Jon ultimately comes to the realization that he isn't as good a musician as he thought he was, and that he was merely using the band to live out his musical dreams. This culminates when he decides to reunite the now-unmasked Frank with his former bandmates, but walks away from the bar, presumably closing the musician chapter in his life for good.
  • Heroic BSoD: Frank, when Clara gets arrested for stabbing Jon in the leg, even after Jon reassures him of how much of a potential audience they could have out there, and even during Jon's unplugged performance.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Jon steadily becomes the very manipulative harpy limiting Frank's potential he perceives Clara to be.
  • Identical Stranger: Jon finds Frank's home and encounters a man he assumes is Frank, but is actually the tree surgeon. The tree surgeon does look very similar to Michael Fassbender, so this is most likely one for the audience as well.
  • Ignorant of Their Own Ignorance: It takes a disastrous performance at SXSW and Frank's nervous breakdown at that show for Jon to realize that as an aspiring songwriter, his trite compositions just aren't very good, even if they are miles more accessible than the music of Soronpfrbs.
  • Informed Attribute: We're repeatedly told that Frank is a musical genius. Justified to a degree in-universe, as the vast majority of Frank's following seem to do so out of sheer curiosity for Frank himself, rather than appreciation for his music, with only the band themselves truly believing him to be a genius.
  • Innocently Insensitive: When Don hears Jon's lame composition, he tries to commiserate with Jon over their shared mediocrity, but Jon still thinks that he's a talented musician, so he's wounded by Don's remarks.
  • Jerkass: Clara, due to her hatred of Jon and over-protectiveness of Frank. Jon himself reveals himself to be distinctly manipulative and once they get to SXSW it becomes clear that he is using Frank and the band to live out his desire to be famous.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Although it doesn't excuse most of their treatment of him, Clara and the rest of the band turn out to be completely right about Jon, as he was merely using them in his pursuit of fame and fortune.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Jon asks a lot of questions that the audience has about how Frank could live without ever taking his mask off. Don explains a few things, but after repeated questions tells Jon that he's just going to have to go with it, as will the audience.
  • Look Both Ways: Jon gets hit by a car after noticing that Frank got hit by a car earlier, breaking the mask.
  • Mad Artist: Ultimately subverted when Jon meets Frank's parents. He mentions how Frank's mental illness must have inspired his musical genius, and they respond by gently telling him that's hogwash, that Frank was always musical, and if anything his insanity has held him back
  • Nice Guy: While the rest of the band are unsociable to say the least, Frank seems to genuinely appreciate Jon's presence in the group, and is very supportive of his ideas in his own very strange way. We never see Frank get angry, and his breakdowns are clearly out of fear rather than hatred.
  • No Antagonist: While Clara initially comes off as a controlling, manipulative force dragging Frank's potential downward, it becomes clear later on that she genuinely cares for him and is a vital part of his own creative inspiration and it was merely Jon's perception of her status as this that made her come off as an antagonist. In many ways, it is Jon's own contributions to the band, along with the instability of his bandmates, that causes all of the problems in the movie.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: "I Want to Marry a Lighthouse Keeper."
  • Putting the Band Back Together: Jon eventually convinces Frank to reunite with the band in the end, without the mask.
  • The Quiet One: One of the band members is a woman who says absolutely nothing until a "The Reason You Suck" Speech about two thirds of the way into the movie.
  • The Reveal:
    • Subverted when Jon notices Frank's mask in a nearby box, and nearly walks in on Frank in the shower, but Frank is wearing another mask.
    • Don speculates in a conversation with Jon that Frank might be deformed underneath the mask, making reference to The Elephant Man. It turns out that Frank is a handsome man, but his head is now covered in scars from wearing masks his whole life.
    • The French guitarist spoke English all along.
  • Scream Discretion Shot: Jon cuts himself shaving when he is inspired to try moving his face instead of the razor. It cuts to a brief pause outside the house before his high-pitched scream is heard.
  • Shout-Out:
    • When Clara gets arrested for stabbing Jon in the leg, Jon remarks, "We hope our own crazy diamond still shines on."
    • The remaining bandmembers are performing a down-tempo version of "I Want to Marry a Lighthouse Keeper" when Frank walks in on them in the final scene. That song was most famously used in A Clockwork Orange after Alex returns home from his rehabilitation: another broken man returning to a once-familiar environment.
  • Shown Their Work: Various social media sites and apps are effectively used for the film's narration. Even the value of certain numbers of YouTube views comes in as a plot point.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Clara is not at all afraid to drop F-bombs.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Jon and Clara, after Clara discovers Jon's YouTube postings, climaxing with Jon delivering an Atomic C-Bomb.
  • Stylistic Suck:
    • The terrible ukulele player at SXSW
    • OECCSCCLHJHN do an outlandishly dreary and minimalist rendition of "I Want to Marry a Lighthouse Keeper," showing that they're sad and lost without Frank.
  • Suckiness Is Painful: Frank collapses during the Austin performance of a song that Jon wrote himself.
  • That Makes Me Feel Angry: In an effort to make Jon less intimidated by the fake head he's always wearing, Frank begins constantly saying his facial expressions out loud, until Clara tells him that it's annoying.
  • Theremin: Clara plays one of these in Soronprfbs. It's best not to touch it, unless you happen to be Frank.
  • Time-Passage Beard: Jon grows a long beard while the band tries to record an album, showing how long it's taking and how much money they're using up. It also increasingly doubles as something of a Beard of Sorrow, given that Jon becomes increasingly disillusioned about his fantasy of becoming a successful musician.
  • True Art Is Incomprehensible: The defining trait of the Soronprfbs. Their name is just a random series of letters, they use Word Salad Lyrics and their music is not catchy or "likable." At one point, Frank announces that they could make an entire album out of the sound of a door closing.
  • The Unpronounceable:
    • Frank's band, Soronprfbs. Jon doesn't even try pronouncing the whole thing, and doesn't get an answer when he asks Clara. Even the behind-the-scenes feature starts with a montage of the various film personnel trying to pronounce the band name, eventually settling for, "SAW-ron-PURR-furbs".
    • Jon exploits this when finding the former members. He simply looks in the paper and sees where the OECCSCCLHJHN band plays on week days.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Jon turns into the very person he accused Clara of being, and was distinctly manipulative the whole time.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The film is a fictionalization of Jon Ronson's experiences with Frank Sidebottom and also draws from Captain Beefheart and other outsider music acts. This trope is actually invoked at the real Frank's request.
  • The Watson: Jon is our window into the weird world of Frank and Co. It even applies in universe, through his social media accounts.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Saying that Jon was ever friends with the members of Soronprfbs (aside from Don and Frank) is a stretch, but he is definitely still estranged from Clara, Nana, and Baraque toward the end of the film.
  • Wild Hair: Jon grows a noticeable beard, after all the time endlessly spent perfecting every detail of Frank's vision for his music.