Thursday, July 26, 2012

“Robot & Frank” – Movie Review





This week in my movie class, we saw the comedy-drama “Robot & Frank”, starring Frank Langella and Susan Sarandon.


When a semi-retired jewel thief gets a robot to help him deal with his early-onset senility, will he be able to teach the robot how to help him score one last big heist?


Frank (Langella) appears to be mellowing late in life after multiple long-term prison stretches for burglary and tax evasion. But in his later years, his son and daughter find that time has taken its toll on the old man as he seems to be suffering from memory losses that grow more frequent and increasing in severity. When Frank’s son Hunter (James Marsden) fears his father may soon no longer be able to take care of himself, he takes matters into his own hands and purchases a robot to serve as a home health care aid to ensure his father is eating properly and doesn’t endanger himself.

Unwilling to adapt to essentially having a babysitter, Frank is extremely resentful of his brand new robot and staunchly resists offers of assistance or advice. One of the few things keeping Frank mentally engaged in life is planning new robberies. As a frequent visitor to his town’s library, the main reason he keeps returning is to see its librarian, Jennifer (Sarandon), who also looks forward to his visits. On one trip, Jennifer shows Frank a rare and highly-prized copy of the book “Don Quixote”, which inspires his next heist. Learning he can teach his new robot how to pick locks, Frank enlists its aid as an accomplice in burglarizing the library. While he succeeds in lifting the book, he unwittingly leaves behind evidence causing him to be a suspect in the crime.

Meanwhile, the quaint, old-fashioned library is endangered when a consultant is brought in to renovate and update the space. Discovering that the wife of this well-to-do consultant has an expensive jewelry collection, Frank sees where his next job is going to be. Once again recruiting his trusty robot to support him in his venture, Frank and his assistant set out to case the house where the consultant and his wife live. But with advancing memory loss and escalating signs of senility, will Frank still be able to successfully pull off the job, even with the help of the robot?


Robot & Frank” is an independent film that will have a hard time finding an audience. For one thing, let’s look at the title: “Robot & Frank” isn’t exactly a title that would motivate most people to see this movie – to me, it sounds more like the title of a play. For those that might choose to view it, they might face some degree of disappointment because their expectations aren’t exactly met – the title conjures up an image of a Science Fiction motion picture, when, in fact, “Robot & Frank” is hardly that. I characterize it as something of a comedy-drama because most of its elements fall into that category than into that of Science Fiction, even though viewers are informed upfront that the story takes place in the not – too – distant future.

I found some of the internal logic in the script to be inconsistent – broken, even, in portions. Maybe this is because I didn’t totally buy-in to the premise to begin with and completely submit to the story; when you prevent the suspension of disbelief that is usually done when viewing most movies, this may cause you to question certain things that you might normally just accept, especially on an initial viewing. Since this was not the case with me, I wound up having substantial problems with the credibility of the fantasy world that the filmmakers attempted to create. While there are many funny moments in the film, I don’t know that I could recommend “Robot & Frank” unless you are merely interested in Langella’s portrayal of the elderly jewel thief, which is quite good.

Following the screening, our instructor interviewed the film’s star, Frank Langella. Langella told us that he came to do “Robot & Frank” shortly after hiring a new agent, who also represents actor Christopher Walken; when Walken originally turned down the offer, the script was sent to Langella, who ultimately accepted. He said that the role of Frank’s daughter was originally supposed to be played by Katie Holmes, but she had to drop out of the project and eventually it went to Liv Tyler. In addition to promoting the movie, Langella was also publicizing his book “Dropped Names”, a memoir of sorts about famous people he met throughout his long acting career – most of whom are now deceased.


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