In the near future, Frank is a retired catburglar living alone while his successful son, Hunter, tries to care for him from afar. Finally, Hunter gets him a robot caretaker, but Frank soon learns that it is as useful as a burglary aide. As Frank tries to restart his old profession, the uncomfortable realities of a changing world and his worsening dementia threaten to take beyond what any reboot can do for him. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Solid down to earth sci fi tale of larceny, the printed word, memory and friendship--all while being pretty funny
Robot and Frank has a lot of rich themes to it that only really came to me while i was thinking about it after-wards...the film is a lot deeper and layered with meaning and symbolism then it initially appears to be--but enough about that--is the robot awesome??? He's more cute then awesome--but he is one charming robot! In fact he kind of reminded me of the one Kevin Spacey voiced in the Sam Rockwell movie "Moon" In fact this whole movie itself--from its low key tone, to its homey set design, to its somewhat enigmatic ending reminded of that 2009 film.
Frank Langella does a great job here--he really grounds the film in reality--which is a great thing because the longer the film goes on, the more incredible and outlandish it becomes---there are some reveals that happen way too quickly throughout and aren't seemingly set up so well but thanks to the amazing chemistry that Langella and the robot develop with one another (thanks to excellent voice work by Peter Sarsgaard)--you kind of shrug your shoulders and go with it...or at least i did. (its really only later that you realize why the film's reveals had to be so quickly shoe-horned in there and that is all i will say about that.) Langella is a man showing early signs of memory loss and is clearly in the beginning of what might end up ultimately being the loss of his mental faculties, he of course doesn't think this is true--and why should he? He's keeping himself busy, his mind active, he reads a lot, he goes to the library and flirts with Susan Surandon's kinda hot Liberian a lot, he seems like he'd be a lot sharper then he does whenever he finds himself around his rather angry son. It doesn't help that he keeps stealing these carved bars of soap from a bath and body-works shop that he insists is supposed to be his favorite diner Harry's ("but dad-harry's closed down years ago" is the constant refrain from whomever langella tells that he's gonna eat at harry's..or that fact that he keeps asking his son how things are at Princeton. "dad i haven't been to Princeton in years." uh-oh) His son (played with a nice mixture of intense worry, frustration, and some good deadpan humor by James Marsden) having had enough of having to drive out to check up on his father over and over again gets him a live in robot health care professional/servant! (why its all the rage among the elderly and infirm these days!) Langella is predictably agitated by this (who wouldn't be?) but in some rather quick and amusing scenes manages to be won over by the robot---it helps that the robot helper has some awesome advantages hidden up its sleeve--such as a very tasty lasagna recipe, a memory that can be screened on a TV screen, and a nice ability to zing frank back for starters.
The film then makes a very quick--almost whip-lash inducing reveal that Frank was in fact a jewel thief/cat burglar as a young man. It then again almost too quickly gives him a perfect caper to try and pull. Susan Surandon's job is in danger of being replaced by--robot librarians...in fact the whole library's inventory of books is in danger of being replaced by kindles and technology. (goodbye book jackets and musty pages, hello sleek shiny neon colored plastic) Its the library's most valuable book (an old hardbound copy of Don Quixote) and his want to impress the librarian that finally kicks the plot into gear---Frank's gonna return to his cat burglarizing ways with the help of his trusty robot sidekick. Only problem--the robot's too good at it--the thievery causes Frank to feel young again and this leads to him wanting to go on an even bigger score. You can pretty much guess where the film goes from there--except there are many many jagged pieces here and there that don't quite fit as Frank later says while examining the loot.
The film has a great sense of tone--its perfectly deadpan and nicely low-key the whole time, never giving certain scenes more weight then they need to be. The film has some really quick but also really funny moments here and there throughout--some of which almost make the whole thing worth sitting through itself. However the film also has some almost too neat coincidences, a much too enigmatic ending that wants the viewer to decide for him/her self what it all means, and a not particularly interesting go nowhere subplot involving Liv Tyler as Frank's robot helper hating daughter (she wants to liberate the robot servers and stop making them slaves--etc, etc. she mostly exists i think to humanize frank, and make him someone who actually means a lot to someone flesh and blood so that his growing relationship to robot will be more believable--but liv tyler has so little to do in this movie, i kept wondering why she was there to begin with--i'm still wondering quite honestly...her character doesn't quite make a lot of sense but whatever) Film is very amusing, and i feel very much worth watching on the whole despite its somewhat maddening flaws--however if you're paying close attention to what's actually on screen--i think the film will either grow on you as you think about it after-wards, or will frustrate you madly--i thought it was pretty clever--but then again i also thought the robot was cute.
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