Frank @ The Ross

Frank (MIchael Fessbender)

Frank (MIchael Fessbender)

It all started with a father’s good intentions in Bluff City, Kansas. Mr. Burroughs (played by Paul Butterworth) knew there was no costume party, but he humored his fourteen-year-old son Frank by making for him a paper mache head to wear to this imagined event. Mr. Burroughs laments, “The worse thing to do with something like that is to pander to it,” — The “it” being what Frank thinks is real in his head.

Filmmaker Lenny Abrahamson directs an oddity of a film entitled Frank, a story about a musician wannabe named Jon Burroughs (played by Domhnall Gleeson) who lives in a small English village. Frank, played by Michael Fessbender, chooses Jon to join his looney-tunes band called Soronpfrbs that he leads with all of his idiosyncrasies in that paper mache head. He sleeps in it. Showers in it. Sings through it. Drinks food supplements through a straw; solid foods are discouraged. The head itself is a remarkable work of art, and Frank takes care to preserve it.

The Soronfrbs

The Soronfrbs

The band isolates themselves in a cabin in the woods; there, they begin work on their album. Songs are arranged according to Franks’s own musical coding system; the band design instruments from string, glass, and wood; all band members participate in daily exercise required by Frank. Jon looks on Frank with awe, and his hero worship taps into Jon’s own obsession with stardom. The whole scenario is kind of weird; but Abrahamson succeeds in staging a play between mental illness and mental health masked by the sturm and drang that usually swirls within the world of celebrity pop rock. In the middle of Frank is a frail thread of a love story between Frank and his interest, Clara (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal). Throw Jon into the equation, and stories of The Beatles, John Lennon, and Yoko Ono come to memory.

Clara (Maggie Gyllenhall)

Clara (Maggie Gyllenhall)

Fiona Weir, casting director, has gathered together a fine ensemble cast of band members who are: Scott McNairy as Don, Francois Civil as Baroque, Carla Azar as Nana, Shane O’Brien as Lucas. We have all heard their kind of music before, and it’s that familiarity that throws us off track with seeing, really seeing the dysfunction between members. Fessbender marvels as he merges the fake head with flesh and bone into a believable “dude with the big head” such that we forget something is a little off with Frank, or is there really?

Poppa Burroughs should not lament too much; a choo-choo train set or a game of Monopoly would not have brought Frank to his place at the close of the film. Lenny Abrahamson suggests in Frank that at the end of the crazy manic in our life, where we really want to be is with the family that we love and to love them all.

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Frank plays through October 2 at The Ross Media Arts Center in Lincoln.

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