Nice little movie recommendation for y’all today. In some respects I’d label it of the feel good variety; but on the other hand it’s also kinda sad due to the subject matter.
I’ll actually call it up front and tell you that it gets a 5 out of 5 rating for my money. Save keeping you guys in suspense. (Maybe I’ll ease back on the max rating, if I ever re-visit for a second viewing. But the whole package just struck an emotional chord with me this first time round. So I’ll go with my immediate gut-feel).
Perhaps I’m becoming a big softie in my old age? But Robot & Frank just struck me as a kinda poetic and somewhat laid back observation of human relationships and interactions. The fact the movie had a low budget feel and a fairly limited number of characters, somehow made the whole event more…intimate. (For want of a better word).
You know how, sometimes, a gig in a small venue can seem more fitting and actually involve you more in the performance? Well, in this case, a larger cast and more ambitious plot would have failed to draw me as deeply into both the storyline and the emotions being conveyed. The screenplay was extremely well written, the characters and interactions well portrayed; and it was a real joy to behold. (Even if it did evoke the occasional mental “ahhh, bless” and a tear or three that threatened to escape the confines of my lower lids).
The story is set in the not too distant future and centres around Frank (played by Frank Langella). The opening scene pretty much sets the stage for the rest of the movie; when we witness Frank (flashlight in hand) burglarising a house…only to discover that it’s his own. How ‘kin cool is that? With one simple intro, we learn both Frank’s profession of choice and his disease (which no-one would choose).
The movie basically follows Frank’s struggle with dementia; plus the effect it has on both him and those around him. It’s kinda fitting that Robot gets top billing in the title, because he’s an important ingredient in the storyline. Whether writer Christopher D. Ford thought of that touch himself or some other smart-ass suggested the idea…it was pure genius.
The slight future aspect and the addition of robots adds to the interest, but the technology is in no way distracting from the human interactions. I guess both the audience and Frank look for a little human-ness in the robot, despite the fact the little fella constantly reminds us that he isn’t human and therefore has no feelings.
Having seen umpteen robot heroes and villains over the years, it was refreshing to see one that wasn’t all-knowing and morally pre-programmed. Robot’s program is adaptive, but actually quite limited in scope. Frank’s health, routine and mental work-out being the primary focus.
The fact that human care-givers would have these self-same goals and in some respects need to remain emotionally detached, made it all the more fitting that the Robot character was there. (The fact that the human-robot interactions provide plenty of scope for smiles and release of emotional tensions didn’t harm any either ;o)
The tale is quite touching, truth be told. I enjoyed James Marsden’s and Liv Tyler’s performances (as son Hunter and daughter Madison respectively); each with their own lives to lead and their own approach to coping. It must be so hard on friends, family and patients suffering such a downward slide. I also enjoyed performances from Ana Gasteyer (as Shop-lady), Susan Sarandon (as Jennifer, the object of Frank’s desires at the local library). Even the sleazy performance from Jeremy Strong (as Jake, Jennifer’s boss). Not that Strong is sleazy you understand; I’m talking about the character Jake…obviously.
Langella obviously steals the show, since Frank is the lead character. He gets to show a whole range of emotions whilst portraying: the forgetful old man warming to his mechanical butler/care-giver/companion; the ageing romeo trying to woo his beautiful
Juliette Jennifer; an incorrigible rogue, planning burglaries as a means of mental exercise.
Robot, of course, is well written to help facilitate or provide naive inquisitiveness wrt each of these endeavours. (It’s a buddy movie in that respect). Most excellent. Favourite moments for me included: the visits to the little nic-nac shop that replaced Frank’s favourite restaurant; Robot’s reasoning regarding Frank’s more questionable activities and how he tries to cajole, barter and bring order into Frank’s life; Frank leading Robot astray (Robot’s as naive as Pinocchio, but has no longing to be a real boy); the little heart-string tugs to bring you back on topic; Jake talking to Frank as if he’s a f***in’ moron; and Frank’s celebratory: “let’s arm-wrestle” (class! ;o)
Some may call it touchy-feely…or even categorise it as a chick-flick. But if you own a pair of testicles and can’t get something out of this movie emotionally…God help you, if you’re unfortunate enough to have a loved one suffer like this, later on in life. Seriously, give it a viewing. It rocks!