Wonderfully absurd and somewhat engrossing, this comedy/drama manages to be off-beat, clever and heartfelt enough in places that makes it a worthwhile film of unique content and a giant fake head.
Wannabe singer/songwriter Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) crosses path with a band and chats to one of the guys, which leads him to fill in and perform with mysterious papier-mached masked man Frank (Michael Fassbender), an enthusiastic musical visionary who takes to Jon even if the rest of the band don’t. Jon and his social media decide to try taking the band to America but first they have an album to record.
What’s great about this film is the general quirkiness involved, the way scenes cut and the unusual things we see in them makes it different to most movies you’d have seen before. Of course just having one of the main characters covered up for the majority of the run time helps make it different because we get a sense of who Frank is but not the true quality of his story.
The music in this film is as off the wall weird as you may imagine, from theremin’s to a burning Korg on stage, the screams and scrapes of ‘music’ involved tells us all we need to know about the extremely indie sound of Soronprfbs. Yes, even their band name is so hipster it hurts. It is done in a funny way though as some strained cabin fever episode sets in whilst they all try to complete a recording of their album. Jon, as the outsider is the character we link to and with him we see the strangeness yet interesting vibe this unpronounceable band give off.
Lenny Abrahamson; most wonderful director behind most wonderful ‘Room’, directs this thoughtful story about identity and togetherness in a coolly refreshing way. A lot of it is shot in Ireland as he wanted that landscape and the music is actually the actors performing their weird tracks live. Abrahamson manages to well connect us to Jon and Frank, which is something considering we never see him for most of it. The comedy of their failings and aspirations is handled very well through most of the movie.
What I can say is that sadly, this film is let down by a mopey third act that drift tediously into Frank’s home-life and issues that perhaps for me got too bogged down and lost that black comedic spin of the first two acts. It’s what I’d comment on as being too dramatic and soap opera like, the unique nature seems to be lost in almost conjunction with Frank losing his head. It wasn’t annoying, just a weak close for a screenplay and idea that had up until that point been silly, smart and hypnotic.
Domhnall Gleeson takes us on the journey very well, the painful lyrics delivered in voice over at the beginning are laughably performed and as he transitions into the band, he thrusts his wanting leadership over things very convincingly. Maggie Gyllenhaal is kooky and 100% loopy, if not psychotic as a sidekick of the piece, her staring eyes and scowls saying it all about she feels with Jon joining them. Michael Fassbender manages to act as Frank extremely well, so much so that even with that hunk of unmoving art on his head you can sense his mannerisms and facial expressions through the mask making every thing he does funnier and more poignant. It’s a shame he ever had to remove the thing!
Oddball is the word of choice to explain this film; with unusual music, loud personalities and honest ideas this movie turns into a more sad film than you’d expect and though it has a bad third act, it doesn’t dampen on the sheer brilliance of everything before.