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Throughout his career, Michael Fassbender has taken on a wide variety of roles: a warrior, a soldier, a mutant, a slave owner, a psychologist, and a sex addict. But while he’s had a number of noteworthy—and controversial—roles, he’s never taken on anything quite like the title character in director Leonard Abrahamson’s Frank.

This quirky indie stars Domhnall Gleeson as aspiring young musician Jon Burroughs. Jon lives with his parents, works a boring desk job, and struggles to put all of his thoughts and ideas to music. But he gets his big break when the keyboardist for a band that’s playing in town tries to drown himself—and Jon ends up on stage with Frank (Fassbender), a mysterious man who wears a big fake head.

When Jon gets the call that the band needs him for something big and important, he jumps at the chance—only to end up stuck on a remote island with a group of troubled musicians as they attempt to record a new album.

In the beginning, Frank is an unconventionally hilarious indie about struggling artists and the fine line between cutting edge and just plain crazy. Gleeson is charmingly clueless as the young musician who will do whatever it takes to become a rock star. Jon is so desperate to write a hit song that he has a running inner soundtrack—a jumble of songs about the people he sees as he walks down the street. And he’s so desperate for the fame and fortune of stardom that he freely accepts his new band mates’ anger and hostility, hoping that it’ll all pay off in the end. That nearly unwavering optimism—mixed with his subtle wry wit—makes him a likable character and an unlikely voice of reason in the midst of all of the band’s craziness.

Unfortunately, though, what starts out as comically quirky soon takes a grim turn as the band flounders in the wilderness, spending more time bickering and back-stabbing than actually recording. Jon finds himself stuck in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of people who are either bitter and resentful or mentally ill—and as he sinks into a kind of creative despair, most of the audience will likely follow.

The film certainly has its entertaining moments—thanks especially to Gleeson’s lovably bumbling Jon and Fassbender’s Frank. Even hidden behind a giant cartoony head, Fassbender is able to make Frank an alluring character—a deep and pensive mystery man with an unwitting ability to attract a loyal following. But these two characters just can’t keep the film from falling apart in the end.

Frank is another film that simply doesn’t know what it wants to be. And the playfully eccentric comedy in the beginning only makes the dark, heavy drama in the end feel all the more morose.

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