Review: Robot and Frank

Robot & Frank

Directed by Jake Shreier

I belatedly ran across this quirky, gently humorous, wonderfully directed indie, Robot and Frank, from 2012. Produced in part by Galt Niederhoffer, this film offers any viewer from the neonatal to the nonagenarian an unfolding, unpredictable, often charmingly gentle, smily movie experience. It suffered early eclipse when first released, but deserves a chance at life.

Frank Langella plays aging second-story man, Frank, with his specialty being stolen jewelry “by the ounce.” He has served several stretches inside, as they say, for a modest variety of thefts, shambling around his increasingly messy home in the outskirt woods of rustic Rye, NY. The rest of the world is electronically savvy, though Frank sticks thoughtfully to his Ludditism, happy enough to avoid all the modern paraphernalia if he can plan his next heist on paper. His two children check up on him often, mindful of his lapses into forgetfulness. He insists he "is joking" if caught in a senior moment.

It played quite briefly, but is now available on NETFLIX, should you have a spare hour or two when you'd like to be delighted, laugh, and admire the great Frank Langella in a role he plays to perfection. The memory-lapsing  father/thief receives a sometime gift from his son, Hunter (James Marsden): A robot ‘butler’ who is programmed to look after Frank, in part to relieve Hunter of his weekly 10-hour round-trips to check up on his father, and loving daughter Madison (Liv Tyler), calling in from Turkmenistan.  Stubbornly, not obviously, the father stops resenting the “space-helmeted” short robot as it dawns on him how useful a powerful aide can be. Soon the odd companions try their luck as a heist team.

Jeremy Sisto as town sheriff, Peter Sarsgaard as voice of the appealing robot, boutique store owner Anna Gasteyer in a hilarious hairdo -- the film occurs "in the near future," a caption informs us at the opening credits. Susan Sarandon manages to subsume her politics in a sweet (and eventually surprising) role as town librarian.

Not a word of 4-letter animus. No CGI. Beautifully directed, as if the indie were a full-fledged studio offering. Nearly every scene has a lesson to impart on helping the infirm, or not intruding on others' autonomy, plans going awry despite best efforts, with a ripple of ruckus and a chuckle as we consider this improbable Crutch Cassidy & the ceramic-helmeted kid.

It did not stay around in theatres very long, mysteriously, but it's a great rental, Netflix flick, or party backdrop. Like honey-laced applesauce and oatmeal in winter, it's a comfort film.

Robot & Frank

Directed by Jake Shreier

I belatedly ran across this quirky, gently humorous, wonderfully directed indie, Robot and Frank, from 2012. Produced in part by Galt Niederhoffer, this film offers any viewer from the neonatal to the nonagenarian an unfolding, unpredictable, often charmingly gentle, smily movie experience. It suffered early eclipse when first released, but deserves a chance at life.

Frank Langella plays aging second-story man, Frank, with his specialty being stolen jewelry “by the ounce.” He has served several stretches inside, as they say, for a modest variety of thefts, shambling around his increasingly messy home in the outskirt woods of rustic Rye, NY. The rest of the world is electronically savvy, though Frank sticks thoughtfully to his Ludditism, happy enough to avoid all the modern paraphernalia if he can plan his next heist on paper. His two children check up on him often, mindful of his lapses into forgetfulness. He insists he "is joking" if caught in a senior moment.

It played quite briefly, but is now available on NETFLIX, should you have a spare hour or two when you'd like to be delighted, laugh, and admire the great Frank Langella in a role he plays to perfection. The memory-lapsing  father/thief receives a sometime gift from his son, Hunter (James Marsden): A robot ‘butler’ who is programmed to look after Frank, in part to relieve Hunter of his weekly 10-hour round-trips to check up on his father, and loving daughter Madison (Liv Tyler), calling in from Turkmenistan.  Stubbornly, not obviously, the father stops resenting the “space-helmeted” short robot as it dawns on him how useful a powerful aide can be. Soon the odd companions try their luck as a heist team.

Jeremy Sisto as town sheriff, Peter Sarsgaard as voice of the appealing robot, boutique store owner Anna Gasteyer in a hilarious hairdo -- the film occurs "in the near future," a caption informs us at the opening credits. Susan Sarandon manages to subsume her politics in a sweet (and eventually surprising) role as town librarian.

Not a word of 4-letter animus. No CGI. Beautifully directed, as if the indie were a full-fledged studio offering. Nearly every scene has a lesson to impart on helping the infirm, or not intruding on others' autonomy, plans going awry despite best efforts, with a ripple of ruckus and a chuckle as we consider this improbable Crutch Cassidy & the ceramic-helmeted kid.

It did not stay around in theatres very long, mysteriously, but it's a great rental, Netflix flick, or party backdrop. Like honey-laced applesauce and oatmeal in winter, it's a comfort film.

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