Nothing sells tickets like plastering a big ol' movie star's face on the poster. And who has a hotter face right now than Michael Fassbender? He's one of the hottest actors on the planet, fresh off an unforgettable performance in the Oscar-winning Best Picture 12 Years a Slave. He's also a critical darling, and a man revered by men as much as he is coveted by women. What could possibly be complicated about marketing his newest film Frank?
Maybe using the star's head isn't really an option when it's actually covered in plaster for most of the film. But instead of running away from that challenge, you faced it head on. The oversized cartoonish cranium is, after all, the heart and soul of the entire film, and the hook that's going to get people talking. That was certainly the case for Chris Sievey – the musician and comedian from the 80s whose alter ego, Frank Sidebottom, inspired the film. Although in director Lenny Abrahamson's version, Frank is the object of affection, and not the protagonist. This story follows a character named Jon (inspired by the film's co-writer, Jon Ronson), who stumbles into Frank's band as a keyboard player and becomes swept up in Frank's eccentric allure. Luckily, the mystery of the man behind the mask doesn't consume the entire narrative.
After all, your whole campaign is promoting this as a film starring Michael Fassbender.
So without the benefit of facial expressions, or even much mobility, Fassbender channels his emotions through the broken and comical cadence of a mid-western American accent. He doesn't aim for brooding and mysterious. Instead, he sounds more like a lost child, eager to please and almost aloof to the fact that his mask is a choice. This allows for the film's other main star, Domhall Gleeson, to feel like he's witnessing the birth of a misunderstood genius, rather than being caught up in a gimmick gone too far.
The question is, will the audience buy it?
I did. Maggie Gyllenhaal's performance as a loyal but no-bullshit band member provides a refreshing counterweight to the whole premise. Gleeson's anti-charisma as an actor is also played just right, as he tweets about his banal efforts to write great songs between his #epicsandwiches. Even the music, which is always just to the left of ever being truly melodic, feels right for a band that's trying to consciously break into the scene sideways. The filmmaking plays it a little safer, giving us an easy entry point with the Jon character and emotional arc to follow, even if it's not a predictable path to stardom and success. Then again, I never expected Frank's big fake head to make deadmau5 kind of waves ( $23M last year alone – mouse mask and all).
Frank doesn't look to be headed towards that kind of business, but don't consider that a failing on your part. Even Fassbender's penis has a hard time selling tickets.