Lucky for you all, I’ve got a couple of things to review this week. Today’s review is of a new movie just out on DVD called Robot & Frank.
Let me first explain some of how I find my movies to watch. I rely very heavily on the ratings provided by Netflix, so if it says that I’d rate it over about a 3.3, I really think about watching it.
I also hit an Apple website a couple of times a month to watch some previews for upcoming movies. And some months ago, I came across this film, which, based purely on the preview, seemed pretty cute. And for once, the preview didn’t give away more of the film than you needed which made the film that much better than the preview was.
The story is this: Frank is an old burglar living by himself in his family house outside of a small-ish town. He’s divorced, and has two kids, the daughter, travelling the world, working for a variety of charitable causes. The son is successful in some way, living hours away from his father’s house. He visits once a week, and decided to buy a robot to care for his father.
The robot is purely a caregiver, designed to cook, clean, be a companion to, and monitor Frank, because Frank is experiencing the early stages of dementia. But old skills are hard to forget or give up, and after discovering that the robot has no programming to prevent it from doing anything illegal, Frank eventually decides to teach the robot lock-picking skills and pull off one more big score. The robot agrees, seeing that the preparation involved will help Frank keep his mind sharp.
This is another of those movies that feels fairly effortless. There were a couple of surprising plot twists that I didn’t see coming, and the film still just kept chugging along and stayed focused on the primary story. It was simple and fun and light and yet still a pretty deep commentary on a family that grew up with deep divides and problems because of Frank’s career and two prison terms.
The cast, as it should be for a movie this simple, is small, but really good: Frank Langella as Frank, his son and daughter played by James Marsden and Liv Tyler, and the local librarian played by Susan Sarandon. No one plays their character too far out of the box they should be in, and really, there isn’t a “bad guy” per se. Though Frank is pursued by the local sheriff when he’s suspected of pulling off a jewelry heist from a nearby house.
The story is really clever. The filmmaking is simple and doesn’t get in the way with anything flashy. And it isn’t any longer than it needs to be. I’ll recommend this indie film for anyone looking for a good study in aging and obselescence. Four out of Five Stars.
See you tomorrow for another review.