johnlink ranks ROBOT & FRANK (2012)

I’m on vacation from work this week (though I still have my final Grad School class) and celebrated by doing… very little. I did spend the kids’ nap watching a short little sci-fi/drama flick from a couple of years ago. It was a very pleasant surprise. Among the blockbuster action and the underwhelming horror flicks littering these pages, there sometime is a tendency to pass the quieter films. Much of my movie watching of late has been escapism. Even if ROBOT & FRANK is not akin to watching a Bergman film, it is still much more the type of thing I should be watching with more regularity.


I watched ROBOT & FRANK (2012) on 4.28.14. It was my first viewing of the film.

Set in the near future, Frank (Frank Langella) is suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s. His daughter (Liv Tyler) is out bouncing around the globe in an effort to make the world a better place. His ex-wife seems to be out of the picture. His son, Hunter (James Marsden), is driving ten hours round trip every week to take care of him. This might be easier if Frank weren’t such a curmudgeon.

In an effort to ease everyone’s life, Hunter buys Frank a robot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard) which is supposed to help regulate Frank’s life. Frank, understandably, is put off by this. The robot, who is never named anything but Robot, tries to make Frank get up at 7:00 AM, eat his veggies, and get a hobby. Meanwhile, Frank is more interested in reading books from a soon-to-be-defunct library, though most of this desire would seem to come from the fact that Frank is crushing pretty hard on the librarian (Susan Sarandon).

There is plenty of humor to be found as the movie gets into its main narrative. See, Frank used to be a jewel thief back in the day. He served two separate stints in prison, causing much of the strife with Hunter. Robot turns out to be lacking any programming which prevents him from breaking the law. Frank decides that this would make him a perfect accomplice with who to reignite his former career. Robot agrees to do so as long as the hobby and routine is helping keep Frank’s brain on track.

This is not some big budget heist film. The small budget aids the movie in making it seem like the very near future. The ‘jobs’ are modest and not perfectly executed. Most of the film is interested in investigating the similarities and differences between the human mind and artificial intelligence. A key plot point revolves around wiping Robot’s memory, a none too subtle allusion to Frank’s own continuing issues. The movie also is concerned with personal happiness versus societal responsibilities. Frank is happiest when he is working a criminal job. This, of course, is in conflict with having a family who has been left behind due to his choices. While he loves his family, he can’t help but be compelled to act in a criminal manner. He’s a habitual thief, stealing from a shop even as his memories fail him, it is in his DNA. He is just not the kind of guy who can easily exist in normal society. It would seem he would have been happy to never have had a family. This isn’t to say he doesn’t love his kids, but they do become more obstacle than aid.

The themes of this film are complex. They seem to both condemn and support reliance on technology. This is a small character film, then, that cares more about the people in the world than providing some great message. It’s an interesting story, a funny tale, and its strengths far outweigh the sometimes cavernous holes in the script (and obliviousness of other characters) which allow Frank to get away with what he is doing.




FINAL SCORE: 8 out of 10

~ by johnlink00 on April 29, 2014.

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