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Robot & Frank opens nationally this week only at a limited number of
select art-house theaters across the country, and most likely won't get
the larger release it deserves
which frankly is too bad. The film
uniquely crosses across so many genre borders and can best be described
as a dramedy meets a heist thriller. Robot & Frank is incredibly
charming, funny and moving.
Writer Christopher D. Ford pens his rare tale set sometime in the ambiguous near future. He doesn't worry about flying cars or futuristic fashion, and keeps this tale grounded in a plausible future that is easily believable. First time director Jake Schreier reveals a mature ability to find the perfect pacing that develops the characters with ease and exact timing that turns the comedy bits into gold.
Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon, Good Night, and Good Luck) is nothing short of exceptional as the title character of Frank. He is hilarious and poignant as the surly ex-con who is starting to lose his mind, and radiates a million emotions across his face without saying a word. If this film could possibly find a larger audience, Langella would have a good shot at punching his Oscar card again.
The smaller supporting cast plays in perfect to establish Frank's present and his past. Susan Sarandon (Thelma & Louise, Dead Man Walking) radiates a beautiful sadness playing a lonely librarian and one of Frank's only connections to the real world. Liv Tyler (Lord of the Rings, Armageddon) and James Marsden (X-Men, 27 Dresses) are solid as Frank's grown-up kids who don't have the time to care for their father and his worsening condition. Best of all is Peter Sarsgaard (Jarhead, Garden State) who brings a perfect sense of comedy and real life validation as the voice of the robot. His dry wit steals the scene on numerous occasions.
Robot & Frank is one of the best films of the year. It's a mystery why bigger studio distributors are so afraid to fully get behind a film like this and push it out the mass audience, especially when you think about the $80 million that was spent on advertising costs for a film like Battleship alone. Robot & Frank is funny, exciting and touching. What else does a movie need?
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It's hard to fault this movie. Literally. I was going to rate it as an
8, but I have to give it a 9 because I can't think of anything about it
The plot is rather simple. Frank is a confused older man who is finding it difficult to take care of himself. He is given a robot medical assistant who is programmed to do only one thing: help Frank. Frank resists mightily at first, but soon Frank improves remarkably and takes up his earlier vocation: stealing jewels. It turns out that the robot's programming does not extend to obeying the law...
This film is interesting, surprising, heart-warming, intelligent, thought-provoking, amusing, understated, well written and well directed. It delivers first-rate performances by first-rate actors.
It defies categorisation. Is it science fiction? A heist movie? A family drama? A melancholic feel-good story about aging? It has no shootouts, no car chases, no superspies, no superheros, no martial arts scenes, no demented villains. What it does have is character development, good writing and a nice story.
Kudos to Schreier, Ford, Langella and Sarandon.
It seems like once a year or so an Alzheimer's movie comes along and
knocks me for a loop. I don't know what it is; I've never had any
personal, real-life experience with the condition or its unfortunate
sufferers, but there's ripe material for crafting warm and moving
stories which invariably end with me in tears. In the last few years I
have been devastated by films such as Away From Her and Barney's
Version, and while Robot and Frank is certainly comparable, it's a
lighter, less harrowing take on a tragic side of aging, and ultimately
results in a much more enjoyable experience.
Frank Langella plays Frank, a divorced senior living a life of solitude in rural New York. Between visits and video calls from his children (James Marsden and Liv Tyler) concerned about his seemingly deteriorating mental state, Frank fills his time with visits to the local library to flirt with librarian Jennifer (Susan Sarandon), and by shoplifting decorative soaps from the store occupying the former site of his favourite restaurant. He is a man of the past, and his little moments of defiance in the face of change establish his character early, so when Hunter (Marsden) arrives with a new robot caregiver, Frank is understandably offended.
As much as Frank's memory regarding the day to day seems to be fading, his former 'profession' as a cat burglar remains at the front of his mind, and the robot's insistence on finding a project to keep him mentally engaged opens a window of opportunity for Frank to focus his mind and retreat back to the glory days of his youth. The planning and execution of heists sees a charming relationship forming between Frank and his robot companion, complemented by a sweet potential romance and stark moments of sadness.
There's a clever subtext running through Robot and Frank as well, commenting on the loss of personality in the digital age, and the disposable nature of modern life. The more we come to rely on technology for everything, from our reading material to our aged care, the less we ourselves are practically capable of, giving rise to a generation of privileged, ironic, but purposeless people ('yuppies' as Frank calls them). What Robot and Frank highlights is not just the fragility, but also the value of a mind filled with life experience and skills. There's no substitute for the complex intelligence of our brains, and even the most sophisticated technology has more to learn from us.
Robot and Frank feels like a film aimed at an older generation, but there is so much to enjoy for anyone who might be occasionally frustrated by our cynical modern world. There's a great balance of laughs, romance and sadness with a fun sci-fi twist, right down to the subtle Star Wars reference.
A funny & touching film that is very effective at getting the audience
to identify and empathize with Frank Langella's aging character, a
former cat burglar who is gradually growing senile. Frank's son buys
him a robot caretaker --a health-nut disciplinarian with a soft spot in
its hardware heart -- and Frank eventually persuades the robot to be
his partner-in-crime in some late-life capers he has planned.
The film is cleverly and ambiguously set in the "near future," so the 30- & 40-somethings of today could easily be the Franks of tomorrow: still using the slang of the 2000s & 2010s, not scared of the latest technology but still somewhat befuddled by it, and rather aghast when young people ask us about our quaint "relationship with printed media."
I didn't expect much. Frank Langella is a great old actor, but I don't
really like him much. Same for Susan Sarandon. Then it is an indie
film, something that just a few people would see in a limited release.
So I hoped for something slightly funny, maybe with crazy people that
try to seem deep, that kind of stuff. Well, I was mistaken on all
Frank Langella played beautifully his role of an amnesic old man helped by a caretaker robot to plan and execute heists. His son and daughter have minimal roles, as well as most other actors. Susan Sarandon's important role is revealed towards the end. All actors play very well, though the gem of this movie is the story and the little details in the script. Finally I can say that I saw a movie with a fantastic script and am naturally puzzled how this kind of film gets a limited release.
Bottom line: a comedic drama which explores the depth of soul, while taking us through a story that is both original and very well written and executed. The Keystone cops type of thing at the end blew it a little for me, but the rest is top notch and the film is definitely worth the watch.
I enjoyed "Robot & Frank", though I am not quite sure why I've seen it
referred to as a comedy or a 'buddy comedy'. It's actually a rather
serious and ultimately depressing film--but one that is highly
Frank Langella stars as an aging man who is slipping mentally and physically. Exasperated, his son decides to do something to free him from having to worry about his father--buy him a helper robot that will keep an eye on him and care for him. However, Langella's memory is spotty--and the very larcenous part of his past is still alive and kicking. And, he's hoping that the robot might help him on his next caper.
The film is a bit hard to rate. I was stuck between a 7 and an 8. It is super-original and fresh but also a bit of a downer--particularly towards the end. It's nice to see some very good acting but I wish the film was a bit more fulfilling. What did you think? Did you also find it a tad unsatisfying when all was said and done. Good--very good. But also not exactly an enjoyable film.
Robot and Frank is a sweet and tender drama, set in what it proclaims
to be "the near future," about a retired cat-burglar, responsible for
several crimes that were said to rob the insurance criminals and the
robot that is placed in his life as a caregiver when he becomes no
longer able-bodied enough to do so. The man is Frank (Frank Langella),
an ex-convict beginning to experience dementia/Alzheimer's like
symptoms. His son, Hunter (James Marsden), is tired of commuting ten
hours round-trip on a weekly basis to care for his father, so to assure
his safety and health, he buys him a slick domestic robot (voiced by
Peter Sarsgaard), which is programmed to help the elderly in their
daily activities. The bot also promotes a rather therapeutic lifestyle,
emphasizing healthy eating habits and cognitive exercises to restore
and maintain brain activity. I can only hope these things become
available publicly in the near future.
As expected, Frank is hesitant to use the robot, finding it useless since he sees himself as capable to take care of himself. Yet when he realizes that the robot doesn't have the conscious ability to distinguish ethical behavior from illegal behavior, Frank believes he can get back into the petty-crime business and use the robot as a lock-picking device. Their first crime involves stealing a rare antique book from the local library, which is looking to overhaul its print media format in favor of the digital age. The librarian, Jennifer (Susan Sarandon), who Frank begins to develop a small little crush on, is dismayed, but coping with the loss of print books in the world, so Frank believes that his effort to save one of the rarest books of all time will make her a bit happier.
A subplot involves Frank's daughter Madison (Liv Tyler), who works on-location in Turkmenistan, coming to visit him shortly after Hunter gives him the robot, to show that human-care is the best care of all and that robots can not provide a human with the same kind of love a human can. She possesses something of the opinion Frank held before this robot came into his life, and we wonder if she will come out changed like him.
The "near future" presented is the kind of near future that we ourselves can kind of predict, rather than it being a Jetsons-esque utopia. All cars have a "Smart Car" built towards them if the "Smart Car" was compressed and made leaner (they look like a twenty-five mile-an-hour wind can blow them over), digital media is taking over in places like libraries, phone calls are made through the TV in a Skype-like format, and the aforementioned domestic robot has become something of a standard. This is the second most favorable aspect to this film, next to the relationship Frank has with his robot. The world the film erects is pragmatic and easily-likable. It doesn't require the suspension of disbelief. It might have if this was made in the 1990's. Libraries going away? Yeah, right.
The film sweetly gives us a parable on how aging and caregiving may be changed in the next few years, with the influx of technology and the possibilities for in-home care with robots. As foreign as this sounds, it isn't far from likely. American citizens, especially the elderly, have had a terrifically tough time adapting to a world that is changing faster than many can keep up, and this film details that. We see Frank is more in-tuned with technology than many others his age, but he may be one of the lucky ones. If there's anything to take away from Robot and Frank, it's that there will be a frightening increase of new and a depressing decrease of old. Life as we know it may not be as simple as it once was - one of the downsides to technological advances.
Many of the film's ideas and actions, such as humanizing a burglar, constructing a believable world where robots have become dependable caregivers, and injecting a very small love story, all work with the gentle direction of Jake Schreier and the thoughtful, sympathetic writing by Christopher D. Ford. This is a premise that shouldn't work as well as it does, but there are many smart people in front of and behind the camera, assuring greatness with every shot. As it ended, I kind of wanted to see it again, which is a high compliment to pay to a movie.
Starring: Frank Langella, James Marsden, Liv Tyler, Susan Sarandon, and Peter Sarsgaard. Directed by: Jake Schreier.
"How do you know this whole thing isn't just one big scam?" Frank (Langella) is an ex-jewel thief who is living alone and is getting dementia. Worried about his dad his son Hunter (Marsden) gives him a gift, a robot to help him remember things and help out around the house. At first Frank is opposed until he learns he can teach the robot to be his partner. I wasn't sure what to expect from this movie going in. It looked OK but also had a feeling it was going to be slow and a little dry. I was wrong. While the movie is not at all action packed or exciting it had an original idea that really kept you interested the entire time and I found it to be an enjoyable movie. There is comedy in this and the way its presented makes it seem like this thing could really happen. The movie is actually surprisingly touching and well worth seeing. I just don't know if I'd watch it again, but I'm glad I saw it once. Overall, a good and heartfelt movie that is well worth checking out. I give it a B.
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
(www.plastipcals.com) Robot and Frank generated some buzz at the
Sundance Film Festival, and I'm happy to report that it wasn't just
hype. It's a genuinely entertaining character study set in the next 50
years that manages to be both funny and surprisingly touching. And
while it is a relatively small independent film you wouldn't know it
from the cast, which includes recognizable stars Frank Langella, Susan
Sarandon, and Liv Tyler (with Peter Sarsgaard providing the voice for
the titular robot). Langella is a perfect fit for the part, and if
you're sick of the tiresome trope of the killer robot you'll find the
film's premise totally refreshing.
As might be expected, Frank is none too thrilled about the prospect of a robot babysitter. The VGC-60L humanoid is about the size of a child and speaks with a neutral voice a bit like HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey. In appearance it looks less impressive technically than Honda's ASIMO boxier and rougher around the edges more akin to the Russian humanoids Arne and Arnea.
The film bypasses its budget limitations by employing a fairly realistic looking robot suit, which, while not quite as good as it could have been, has a certain charm all its own.
That's OK, as the thrust of the film isn't the sci-fi bits but about Frank, his condition, and his relationships. These are handled very well. Luckily, aside from one or two problems, the script is smart. Frank's daughter (Liv Tyler), initially dislikes the robot too she's politically aligned against them a movement that will likely emerge as robotics technology encroaches our daily lives. And there are some very poignant moments between Frank and the robot that really got me.
Robot and Frank is up there with the best robot movies out there. I took my mom to this movie and we both really enjoyed it, so it goes to show that you don't have to be a robot geek to see it. The credits even include footage from a handful of contemporary robot projects to show the audience what is out there, including Karlsruhe University's Armar III, Murata Boy (the cycling robot), Waseda University's TWENDY-ONE, Pal Robotics' humanoid REEM-B, the University of Tokyo's Assistant Robot, and a few others.
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