Robot & Frank, a Look at the Mechanics of Love and Aging
|Frank Langella and Liv Tyler in Robot & Frank|
Set in woodsy Cold Spring, New York, in the "near future," the film's main character is Frank (Frank Langella), an aging former cat burglar and an ornery father of two adult children. He lives in a dirty and disheveled country home, matching the disheveled last years of his life. His old-man mind gets snagged on certain memories: he asks to go to Harry's, his favorite restaurant, which closed 30 years ago, and he still thinks his son Hunter (James Marsden), now a successful professional and a father of two, is enrolled in undergrad at Princeton. He also frequently engages in petty acts of shoplifting.(Cat- and dog-shaped bath soaps are his favorite targets.)
To alleviate the heavy burden Frank's increasing instability places on the family, Hunter brings his father his very own helper robot, an eggshell-white model that looks like a five-foot astronaut from Legoland. At first, Frank is alternately confused and furious about the imposition.
"What are you?" Frank asks the robot.
"I'm a robot," answers the 'bot, whom Frank refuses to name.
"Oh yeah. How are you?" replies Frank.
"Today we are going to start a garden."
"Fuck this shit!"
|Langella stares down his robot in Robot & Frank|
Supporting characters like Frank's kids Hunter and Madison (Liv Tyler), Jennifer (Susan Sarandon), the object of Frank's senile affections, and Jake (Jeremy Strong), a patronizing rich hipster, add depth to this "man meets machine" story. But this film's most outstanding roles are the ones in its title. The robot is, impressively, is not a machine at all; it's performer Rachael Ma wearing a robot suit, voiced by actor Peter Sarsgaard. Langella, as the stubborn old man with deteriorating mental capabilities, is in denial about his decline, defending his autonomy one minute and gulit-tripping his daughter about not taking care of him the next. Langella brilliantly balances the tension between Frank's ruthlessness and kindness, helplessness and capability, without overplaying the "cute and crazy old man" schtick.
|Frank Langella and Susan Sarandon in Robot & Frank|
It's easy to get lost in this gentle and honest story, and that's okay. But when the lights come up, just make sure to discuss it with your date, not your car's GPS system.
The film's run begins August 31 at the Coral Gables Art Cinema, Regal South Beach, and AMC Aventura.
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