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Music comedy is too mad for its own good

Maggie Gyllenhaal as Clara, Michael Fassbender as Frank and Domhall Gleeson as Jon. Photo: PA Photo/Curzon Film World

Maggie Gyllenhaal as Clara, Michael Fassbender as Frank and Domhall Gleeson as Jon. Photo: PA Photo/Curzon Film World

In the mid 1980s, musician Chris Sievey gave birth to Frank Sidebottom, a sharp-suited comic persona with a large papier-mache head.

This cartoonish alter-ego became ensconced in the Madchester music scene, made regular appearances on television and famously gave birth to Caroline Aherne’s mock talk show host Mrs Merton.

Journalist Jon Ronson’s memories of the man and the myth provide an unlikely spark of inspiration for Frank, a musical comedy that is, to be frank, too self-consciously bonkers for its own good.

Ronson’s script, co-written by Peter Straughan, taps into the appeal of other outsider musicians like Daniel Johnston and Captain Beefheart as it dramatises the efforts of a group of misfits to record an album.

Oscar nominee Michael Fassbender, who was terrifying in 12 Years A Slave, spends almost the entire film encased within a giant fibreglass noggin, concealing his emotions from us as well as the other cast.

Gyllenhaal sinks her pearly whites into her role with gusto but Gleeson’s delusions of musical grandeur wear thin well before the Soronprfbs embark on an ill-fated trip.

 

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