We all know that there are many independent films out there that are far superior in storytelling capability and in impact to the majority of the blockbuster films that fill up theaters during peak times when they all seem to be released.
Every now and then, some of the smaller, more intimate movies get praised and highlighted at the many film festivals held throughout the year. One such outstanding movie at this year’s Sundance Film Festival was “Robot & Frank,” the feature film directorial debut for Jake Schreier, and for writer Christopher D. Ford. It won the “Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film” Prize and is bound to win more awards as it tours the festival circuit throughout the year.
“Robot & Frank” is set in the near future in upstate New York. We meet Frank (Frank Langella), a retired elderly gentleman whose two kids, Hunter (James Marsden) and Madison (Liv Tyler), are worried about him and his ability to care for himself following recent health problems and memory loss. Against being stuck in an old folk’s home, they compromise and get him an automated helper robot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard) who will live with him and assist him in an assortment of ways.
Not a fan of the machine living in his house, but reluctant to be put away in a retirement center, Frank begins to experiment with the robot and realizes that he can teach him things. It just so happens that Frank used to be a cat burglar and he teaches Robot to pick a lock. They plan a jewel heist together and bond over the experience. It was bound to happen sooner or later, but people catch wind of the plot and Frank is in jeopardy of losing his new friend.
From what I have heard and read about “Robot & Frank” — and seen in this unique and interesting trailer — I can say that I am intrigued by this film. It has remnants of “Batteries Not Included” and “Bicentennial Man,” with somewhat of a futuristic feel but still simple and dramatic.
Frank Langella rarely puts out a less-than-stellar performance in a film – “The Box” withstanding – and the praise he is already getting for this role just further piques my interest. The fact that both the writer and the director are new to feature films will probably help the film as they will hopefully be bringing a fresh perspective to the overused concept of buddy dramedy and a heist film.
The movie also stars Susan Sarandon as another piece of equipment that seems to be outdated, a librarian, and you can see that relationship developing as he gets his mojo back while planning the robbery.
The film seems to be innovative, quirky and just dark enough to make it not cheesy but also intelligent and sentimental. This is a film to check out when it opens in theaters Aug. 24 in the United States. It also stars Jeremy Strong and Jeremy Sisto.
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