August 29, 2014 at 1:00 am

Tom Long

Review: 'Frank' strikes some seriously odd chords

Michael Fassbender, left, and Domhnall Gleeson star in the mystery comedy drama 'Frank.' (Magnolia Pictures)

“Frank” is an odd little rock-and-roll fable likely destined to become a cult hit for late night stoners everywhere.

That’s because the title character wears a large papier mache head with a fixed expression of vague wonder day and night. Played by Michael Fassbender, although you couldn’t prove it, Frank is a mysterious but friendly guy with obvious identity issues and a bit of charismatic draw.

At least that’s how Jon Burroughs (Domhnall Gleeson) seems to see it. A quiet dreamer who writes bad songs and plays mediocre keyboard, Jon ends up joining Frank’s rock band, which has a purposely unpronounceable name. He’s lured in by Frank’s manager (Scoot McNairy), a former mental patient. Jon thinks he’s joining the group for a gig, but instead ends up in a remote cabin where Frank intends to record their first album. Although he’s disdained by the other band members — especially theremin player Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal) — Jon begins documenting the band’s process on YouTube and, after a while, Frank unknowingly starts building a cult audience.

All this builds to the band being invited to play at the annual South by Southwest music festival in Austin. The only problem is, Frank’s music is as bizarre as Frank, a sort of Jim Morrison fronts the Velvet Underground as conducted by Frank Zappa. So Jon tries to take things in a more commercial direction to terrible effect.

The tone drifts from oddball eccentric to something more dark as mental illness turns out to be — surprise! — not all that funny in the end. But there’s a perseverance to “Frank” that’s also uplifting, a true spirit of unity among the damaged. Rave on, dude.

'Frank'

GRADE: B

Rated R for language and some sexual content

Running time: 95 minutes

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