Sundance 2012 Review: ROBOT AND FRANK


Robot and Frank is a touching story about a man named Frank, played by Frank Langella, and his (at first) imposed friendship with, yes, a robot. It's got a great sense of humor which functions contrapuntally against the more melancholy moments and balances out the occasional cheese. The impeccable tone that the film maintains, along with it's vast amount of charm, pushes this film above the rest.


The sometimes sad, often lonely and almost always frustrated protagonist is Frank, an elderly man living in the not too distant future. Frank is suffering from a rapidly progressing form of dementia and as his memory weakens, he is able to take care of himself less and less. With his daughter, played by Liv Taylor, out of the country doing her part to "save the world" and his son, played by James Marsden, busy with his own life, Frank is happy to go on living as he has been; alone with his dog. His kids disagree and eventually his son decides to leave him with a Robot caretaker, complete with a near convincing human personality. The voice of the robot is played pitch-perfectly by Peter Sarsgaard.


Much of the humor comes from the "odd couple" relationship between Frank and the Robot, yet their underlying friendship keeps the story grounded and emotionally connected. Frank's interactions with the local librarian, played by Susan Sarandon, is adorable and Frank's grumpy old man routine is absolutely charming.


The films really gets going when Frank realizes he can manipulate the robot to help him with his somewhat dubious hobbies. Suddenly, there is a sense of adventure and as Frank grows excited about his life again, the film gets exciting as well. A wonderfully hate-able investor played by Jeremy Strong becomes Frank's nemesis and as their petty bickering escalates to something much bigger, so does the momentum of the story.


This film is smart but simple, making it easily digestible by any viewer. But like a lot of veritable movies, songs, and books, the simplicity is deceptive. In fact, there is a great deal of rumination on what it is to be a human, on life and death, on growing old and being young, on memories and nostalgia, and being open to something new. Hiding all of that behind such a user-friendly story as fun as this one is, is a feat worth witnessing.

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