Robot & Frank

Frank Langella is the type of actor that you don’t really think of until you are watching one of his films. Totally underappreciated.  Over the course of his career he has turned in strong performance after strong performance. Frost/Nixon, Good Night, And Good Luck, Breaking the Fifth, and Unknown. Maybe it is because he has also starred in a bunch of bad films like Body of Evidence, Superman Returns and Cutthroat Island. Those were just bad decisions and do not diminish his talent.

Each of us gets older but for some it is harder than others.  Frank is a senior citizen who is living a quiet life in a rural area of New York State.  His days consist of reading, sleeping and walking to the library to get more books plus flirt with the librarian, Jennifer (Susan Sarandon – Bull Durham, Dead Man Walking).  That doesn’t seem too bad now does it? Well, for Frank it is trying as more and more frequently he has periods of disorientation.  His memory isn’t what it used to be.  These confused periods cause some worry for his adult children, Hunter (James Marsden – X-Men, Hop) and Madison (Liv Tyler – Armageddon, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring).  Hunter decides it is time to do something about his stubborn father.

On one of his visits to see his father, Hunter brings a robot (Peter Sarsgaard – An Education, Green Lantern).  Frank, of course, initially balks at the idea of having a robot that will help him with things around the house, make sure he eats right and develop a program that will help Frank with his memory. Frank sees the robot as an intrusion but Hunter insists.

After at first resisting, Frank begins to see that the robot could have its uses. In his younger years Franks was a cat burglar. He begins to see that he can train the robot to help him get back into the thievery game.

Robot & Frank is a small film that is based upon the strong performance of the lead actor and the sweet story. Nothing too complicated happens and the mood remains warm and poignant all the way through. That is not to say that I wasn’t sad at certain points as what is happening to this formidable man is not fun. Jake Schreier (first film) never allows his film to fall into the typical or mundane. He allows the richness and smarts of the story and characters to shine through. As a result you are able to connect to Frank…and even that odd looking white robot.

A nice tale about growing older and adjusting to the changes. The simple story is tent polled by Langella’s performance. He is convincing, charming and note perfect as his namesake Frank. It is easy to believe him as a bright man who feels his mental capacities slipping away. Despite the fact that for the most part his character is short and crotchety, he makes him likeable. The more he denies that he is having some memory problems the more we love him. Many scenes totally depend on the actor as it is just him talking to the robot. A heavy burden but he carries it well.

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