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Robot & Frank

Directed by Jake Schreier
Directed by Jake Schreier
http://www.impawards.com/2012/robot_and_frank_ver3.html

Robot & Frank

Rating:
Star4
Star
Star
Star
Star

Robot and Frank is an older film released in 2012 that didn't get much recognition but with today's technology that statement doesn't really make a difference anymore. Everyone knows by now that streaming has become the dominant format for cinema, and with it comes the ability for films to spawn a new life and generate followings much later on down the road. Perhaps such a humble movie as this had trouble competing with powerhouses of that time such as the re-release of Finding Nemo in 3D or the Oscar contender known as The Master, but thanks to the internet when the box office slows down people can stay home and truly enjoy a remarkable film.
First of all the cast is terrific. Frank Langella, who you might recognize from Frost Nixon and Superman Returns, keeps his real name and plays an aging man with a disconnected family. His son, played by James Marsden (Also in Superman Returns) worries that Frank's diminishing memory may be causing problems in his very isolated life. He responds by purchasing his father a robot voiced by Peter Sarsgaard (Skeleton Key) that is designed to watch over him and keep him well. An infatuation with the town's library and the woman who runs it (Susan Sarandon) causes Frank and his new mechanical friend to embark on a series of illegal activities that reignite a passion Frank has long since forgotten; burglary. His new habits attract the attention of a few locals (one of them played by Ana Gasteyer) and eventually the police. Jeremy Sisto, who co-stars with Gasteyer on television's Suburgatory, leads the team of law enforcement officials responsible for trying to take the duo down. When it becomes clear to Frank's daughter (Liv Tyler) that things in her father's life have become complicated she eventually enters the scene in an attempt to make everything better. Seeing such a great line up of familiar faces is really where this film gets its charm. That isn't to say the story couldn't do well enough on its own, but the writers should feel nothing short of grateful for this cast.
The unique substance of Robot and Frank is one of venial transgression. It's almost as if the author is trying to say that even our most nefarious behaviors can be good for us. Frank was losing his ability to be functional before realizing he could use the robot as his partner. Once he started down a path towards crime his mind felt young again and his conscience was whole. He began plotting methods to steal and even developed a second life that was more fulfilling than his first. Sure what he was doing was wrong, but the process was helping him. The crimes were exactly what he needed to get his brain functioning again. Maybe the real point is that everyone just needs a project but what this movie doesn't leave out is the soul; the internal desire to do something you feel you were meant to do. In Frank's case it just happened to be illegal.
The movie doesn't aim to be entirely cerebral as there are a few twists and surprises along the way to keep it entertaining. Some moments are funny and there are characters to invest in and situations that just make the whole experience fun, after all one of the main players isn't even a human being. The presence of the robot alone should be appealing enough to the Sci-fi kid in you. You can watch,enjoy and then get into the psychology of everything after the fact.
The truth about Robot and Frank is that there should be more films like it. Without movies like these the world would soon run out of originality. It's genuine. It has a real heart. It's not the kind of movie that relies on a big budget to win you over. It hopes that content alone would be enough. It's the kind of film you might catch some lazy Sunday afternoon and think “Hey, that was pretty good. Why haven't I ever heard of it before?”, and then hopefully you'll tell your friends.