Directed by: Jake Schreier
Cast: Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon), Susan Sarandon (Jeff, Who lives At Home), James Marsden (Straw Dogs), Liv Tyler (The Ledge), Rachael Ma (A Novel Romance)
I first became aware of actor Frank Langella in 1979 when he reprized his brilliant and steamy Broadway performance of DRACULA on screen. It was certainly not the best Dracula film around, but as a young leading man his performance created a character that was unquestionably the screen’s first really sexy bloodsucker. Since then, I’ve watched him age, not so gracefully, and mature into one of the world’s greatest character actors. Never a bad performance and always careful with the roles he chose. So when I heard he was staring in a small Indie Film I figured it might be choice. And It Was!
“Robot & Frank”, turns out to be an endearing, bittersweet, and sometimes hilarious ‘buddy caper’ about an aging retired cat burglar and his new robot buddy, and the chemistry between the two of them is as fascinating as it is palpable. Langella is so masterful in his performance as a lonely curmudgeon and Rachael Ma so engaging and mechanically perfect in the Robot suit that the two completely steal the screen, and leave you waiting for their return in the brief moments they are off camera. The film is irresistible. It truly makes us believe that a tranquil automaton and a ruffled shell of a human being can long for one another’s company.
Here’s the plot, just to wet your whistle:
Set in the near future, Frank Weld, an ex-jewel thief with memory problems, is not doing well, he isn’t up to cleaning his home; the food in his fridge is going bad; and the restaurants in town he thinks about patronizing have all gone out of business. The only bright spot in Frank’s routine are visits to the local library, where he flirts with Jennifer (Sarandon), the establishment’s last remaining flesh- and-blood librarian.
To keep himself out of a retirement home he is forced to accept a gift from his son; a robot butler programmed to look after him. He rejects the Robot at first, but before you know it the two companions are working as a heist team.
Jake Schreier, directing his first feature, has given us a gem; a small film where the story and every single performance is measured, nuanced and pitch perfect. How often does that happen? Although the film appears to be aimed at an older audience, I found the younger people in the theater just as charmed by the magic of the story. So, my recommendation, grab your nearest Robot and take him to see the movie, he’ll take better care of you for doing it!