The desire to "be in a band" in the twenty-first century is rife with the implications that one must cultivate the perfect gimmicky image before he can even dream of his music being heard with any level of auditory discernment. Lenny Abrahamson's fourth feature, Frank, explores this notion with equal parts deftness and semi-satiricalness.
Following the musical aspirations of the hapless, rather talentless Jon (Domhnall Gleeson), we're given a glimpse into disparate spectrums of the musician's mindset: the side that seeks fame without acknowledging a lack of aptitude and the side that is neutral about fame and would prefer simply to make music. Frank (Michael Fassbender), a mysterious musical prodigy who invites Jon to join his band, Soronprfbs, after their keyboard player commits suicide, falls into the latter side of the spectrum.
The other members in Frank's band, Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal), Nana (Carla Azar) and Baraque (François Civil), are eccentric, to say the least, though not nearly as bizarre as Frank, who Abrahamson has stated is a combination of Frank Sidebottom (a.k.a. Chris Sievey), Daniel Johnston and Captain Beefheart. Determined to lock themselves away and record a masterpiece of an album, Soronprfbs is temporarily foiled by the fact that they don't have enough money to keep renting out their secluded space in Ireland. Wanting desperately to be a part of something legendary, Jon offers them up his "nest egg" to continue recording.
Although none of his music is used for the album, Jon still enthusiastically tweets (ugh, Twitter) and records videos to his followers to keep them interested, resulting in a spike in the band's number of fans that ultimately leads them to be invited to SXSW. While Jon is ecstatic about this offer, the other band members are extremely reluctant. Frank is ultimately cajoled into going, leading Clara to threaten Jon, "If you fuck things up in America, I will stab you." Her threat becomes real after the pressure and anticipation weighs heavily on Frank once they get to Austin.
After Clara is arrested, the other members of the band refuse to play without her. All the while, Jon continues to tweet and record what's been going with the band, leading everyone to believe it's all some sort of publicity stunt. The night of their performance--with the band down to just Frank and Jon--Frank has a breakdown onstage and ultimately goes into hiding. It suddenly dawns on Jon that his lust for recognition came at the cost of the music, which he was never really a part of to begin with. This revelation forces him to realize, once and for all, that musicians who are pure of heart can never really handle the fame that goes with their talent.