Monday, November 11, 2013

Robot & Frank (2012)(Minor Spoilers Review)

**This review contains MINOR spoilers, no major reveals or plot twists**

In the near future, an elderly and retired cat burglar named Frank Weld (Frank Langella) lives alone in a messy house buried deep in the woods of Cold Spring, Ney York. Frank, suffering from a severe case of dementia, constantly refuses his son, Hunter’s (James Marsden) offers to seek help. But Hunter is tired of taking ten hour trips to visit and check up on Frank, so Hunter gives Frank two non-negotiable options. Option one, Frank can spend the rest of his days in a research facility/retirement home dedicated to studying memory loss. Option 2? Frank allows a live-in robot to take care of him.

Robot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard) is forced on Frank, and Frank is reluctant to accept Robot into his life at first, but things change, when Frank realizes he can train Robot to do anything. Meanwhile, Frank tries to woo Jennifer (Susan Sarandon), a local librarian, under the watchful eye of her boss, Jake (Jeremy Strong). Frank’s growing bond with Robot is disrupted by his visiting daughter Madison (Liv Tyler). Madison is dedicated to a life of philanthropy, and she doesn’t like the idea of her father relying on a robot.

With Robot’s help, Frank plans one more big heist, but he'll have to outsmart a suspicious Sheriff Rowlings (Jeremy Sisto). Frank suffers a series of unexpected setbacks, forcing Frank into a tough decision that will change his life forever.

Brilliant. It’s the first word that comes to mind for describing Frank Langella’s performance. Langella is this cranky old codger at first, but as the story develops, you’ll see a vulnerable old man, who’s frightened at the thought of living a broken and lonely life. Plus, Langella is able flex his muscles with some smooth charisma during a handful of scenes with Sarandon, and Langella oozes confidence, while reliving his glory days as a cat burglar. It’s a remarkable performance, because the Frank character is loaded with so many layers, and Langella nails each one.

I give the nod to Liv Tyler for the second best performance in this cast. Madison is this obsessive hippie, and at times, you get the sense she’s a self-righteous phony. Madison hates robots, and she’s for all things natural, but there’s a scene where Madison uses Robot (unbeknownst to Frank) to clean up the house. Madison tries to take credit for Robot’s work, but Frank is able to catch her in a lie. Although, through all her protests and preachy lectures, you’ll be able to see Madison has a good heart, and the best intentions for her aging father. Jeremy Strong is believable as this pretentious and snobbish jerk, who’s determined to make Frank’s life a living hell (more on that later), and Jeremy Sisto has a handful of funny moments, as this dimwitted sheriff, who’s more interested in praising Frank’s glorious past as a skilled thief. No major complaints from Sarandon and Marsden, because they both delivered solid performances. 

The “machine bonding with a human” is a storyline we’ve all seen before. In the case of Robot & Frank, it’s about a bitter old man, who’s losing his grip on reality, and Robot is his only friend left in the world. Plus, It’s hard to ignore Frank Weld’s status as an anti-hero here. And you know what, it’s easy to root for him, when you consider his adversary. Jake is an unlikeable and preppy snob, who walks around with this undeserved superiority complex, and Jake turns into a bully with Sheriff Rowlings conveniently in front of him. He’s such a worm, so it’s hard to feel ANY sympathy for Jake.

Robot & Frank provides a nice balance of quirky comedy, and a touching drama about an aging man, who’s afraid of living his last days alone. You’ll find yourself cheering for Frank during his last heist and the aftermath of a risky coverup, because Langella brings an irresistible amount of charm and tenderness (in certain scenes, mainly towards the end) to this character. Honestly, I didn’t have high expectations for this one, but Robot & Frank was a pleasant surprise for me.

Rating: 9/10

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