Robot & Frank (2012)
Set in the near future, ex-jewel thief pensioner Frank (Langella) is given a robot butler (voiced by Peter Saarsgard) by his son Hunter (Marsden) to help him around the house. Initially despising the thing, Frank soon develops a fondness for the robot and decides to teach him the tricks of his former trade. After a successful tryout, the duo decide to perform a heist on the home of the local yuppie and his wealthy wife, who have ‘destroyed’ the local library and turned it into a hip community centre for the youngbloods. Unfortunately for Frank, age has not been too kind with him as they must battle against the local law enforcement and his ailing health in order to succeed.
When I first saw the trailer, two things captivated me. The first was Frank Langella, an actor I’ve always enjoyed watching in every movie he starred in, particularly Dracula and The Ninth Gate. Secondly, its second leading ‘actor’ is a robot, the cute kind of robot that you wouldn’t mind having in your home yourself. The film could have took a gooey, soppy story approach but instead what we have is a fun-filled, witty drama that has a certain sweetness and charm to it, if not a little sad at times. The crux of the film is how one man copes with the onset of Alzheimer’s and how a simple robot becomes such an important part of his life that helps him remember who he is. I’ve not had any personal experience with Alzheimer’s but I can imagine how important it must be to have someone there to support you. In Robot & Frank, Frank’s son Hunter attends at weekends but only serves to nag him whilst his daughter Madison (Liv Tyler) is off galavanting around impoverished countries. What Frank needs is support and he gets that off Robot. Robot does not patronise Frank, but serves to aid him and the two build up a friendship that nearly made this hardened critic weep. Frank’s untidy, unhealthy lifestyle changes for the better and gives Frank a brighter outlook on life with the opportunity to delve into the hobbie he loved so much. As well as Alzheimer’s, age is another thing we resent. We don’t like to get older, to loose our sight and to fail to remember things like we used to. Acknowledging these things, for most people, feels like you’ve been defeated and no proud person would ever admit that. Robot serves as a reflection of Frank, a being that is interested in the ‘family business’ which his son Hunter never was, which makes it even more difficult when the time comes to admit defeat, in both the physical and mental sense.
There’s never a dull moment in Robot & Frank. Robot is tranquil character voiced by Peter Saarsgard, though I mistakenly assumed it was LOST’s Michael Emerson voicing the character. Robot’s soft, calm tones are a contrast to Frank’s brash, stubborn outbursts and the two make a cracking double act. One of my favourite scenes is when Robot waits outside the library for Frank and some kids start to harass Robot. Robot tells them “warning, do not molest me”, which is funny by itself, but when Frank bursts out the doors and tells the kids to “beat it, you little bastards!”, I laughed wholeheartedly.
There are many scenes like these, where dialogue plays a huge part in driving the story. Frank’s only other friend, besides Robot, is the kind librarian, Jennifer (played by a tremendous Susan Sarandon), who’s no1 patron is Frank, whom she has a soft spot for – a feeling that is mutual. The moments he shares with Jennifer are sweet, but not in a sickly way, as she seems to be the only person not to patronise him. A little scene where she shows Frank the library’s most prized possession, a copy of Don Quixote, appeared to be a nod to the Don Quixote book which Corso purchases in the opening of The Ninth Gate, a Roman Polanksi film in which Frank Langella plays rich book collector, Boris Balkan.
As the film progresses, Robot and Frank become unseperable and when plotting for one last jewel heist, it becomes apparent just how quickly Frank is deteriorating in health. His one last job represents him trying to cling onto the past before he forgets it altogether and having Robot helps him to do that.
Frank Langella puts on a performance of a lifetime, a true depiction of one man not wanting to get old or resign himself to a carehome, despite his ailing health and his concerned children. The charisma that Frank exuberates is endearing and makes him one lovable rogue OAP. His character appears to represent the good old world, where people read physical books rather than digital ebooks. This is something I can totally sympathise with, as our modern age seems to be concentrating more on technology each and every day, leaving precious physical media behind.
The cinematography in the film is beautiful to behold and takes us to some varied places, from a woodland trek to a lavish party. There’s plenty to feast your eyes upon in the movie, with attention to detail strikingly apparent.
Though we do dedicate our site to horror, cult and the like, it’s sometimes nice to watch something a bit lighter for a change. Robot & Frank ticks the box and is an enjoyable film for all to watch from start to finish.