Robot & Frank (2012) – Review

Robt & Frank

 

In light of the recent success of Spike Jonze’s futuristic “Her”, this earlier 2012 release is a similar concept catered for the older generation, drawing comedic likenesses to Academy Award nominees “Philomena” or “Nebraska”.

New Jerseyite Frank Langella plays the eponymous “Frank”, a former expert jewel thief who in his old age is addled by the beginnings of Alzheimer’s disease. Smothered by his imposing son Hunter (James Marsden), he is forced to accept a medical robot assistant to restore healthy ‘order’ in his life. Initially his worst nightmare, Frank learns he can manipulate the machine’s programming and utilises the opportunity to return once again to the crime business, despite the robot’s best attempts suggesting: “Let’s focus on the garden.” Just as the old man adjusts to having his new animatronic sidekick watch over him, his free-spirited and politically righteous daughter Madison (Liv Tyler) objects to its introduction and the old man faces a battle to win the love of Jennifer (Susan Saradon) and not only keep the robot, but to use it to pull off his most daring offences to date.

Young director Jake Schreier makes his feature length debut in a sophisticated fashion, creating an assured film in all cinematic aspects. The comedic performances of Langella are well complimented by the machinelike yet sensitive dialogue of the robot. Their scratchy relationship soon blossoms into a tender friendship, the likes of which that only generational naivety of the old with technology could produce. Fiery outbursts such as “Back off you little astronaut bastard” eventually turn into pleading calls for incriminating assistance. As he asks “Are you in?” the robot gently replies: “Only if you eat a low sodium diet from now.” The robot itself was produced by Los Angeles Company ‘Alterian FX’, who having previously designed the classic helmets of French Disco duo ‘Daft Punk’, were the perfect choice for a believable yet futuristic creation. Combined with the vibrant cinematography in secluded American countryside, tactical production design to suggest the ‘near future’, the directorial vision shows no youthful let up. The film is unsuspecting in its emotional storytelling, exploring a now very current issue recently re-addressed at Senate by Hollywood comedian Seth Rogen.  Langella’s chemistry with Sarandon is powerful as he struggles to comprehend his own mental shortcomings that obstruct his feelings for the quaint librarian. This affectionate tale is curated proficiently by Schreier and through his expression of the plausible future, cements himself as a cinematic voice for our future.

It is a film that rather ironically, has been forgotten by many mainstream audiences, most likely due to its simplicity. For me its beauty is undeniable and whilst ‘Her’ is wowing conventional cinemas across the globe, this mature throwback deserves similar recognition by viewers of all tastes.

IMDB Rating: 7.1

My Rating: 8

Max Hilton

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