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PBIFF Review: “Robot & Frank” (POSITIVE)

April 13, 2012

There were many movies I had on my list to see at this year Sundance Film Festival, many of however I was unable to see. “Robot and Frank” was on the very top of my list, sadly I missed it. I crossed paths with the director of the film, Jake Schreier, it was just a moment, I was in my volunteer uniform, so it was all a matter of answering a question you would need to ask to a Sundance volunteer. I told him I plan on seeing his film and responded, “Great, I hope you enjoy it.”

Fast-forward four months later, I’m covering the opening night of the Palm Beach International Film Festival in West Palm Beach, FL at the Muvico in City Place. It’s a red carpet event for the opening night film of “Robot and Frank”. I’m FINALLY getting to see the movie! And to my surprise Jake was in attendance for the films Florida premiere. I was lucky to be the first to interview Jake, I greeted him with a friendly handshake and told him that we briefly met at Sundance, I could tell he didn’t quite remember, surely he met a lot of people at the festival, but then again there were a lot of orange jacket wearing volunteers like me he must’ve crossed paths with.

Schreier explained that the film was based on a short film thesis project that his friend and screenwriter of the feature, Christopher D. Ford created back at their NYU days nearly a decade ago. I asked Jake if we’ll ever see the original short film, he smiled with a sly response, “I don’t think so”. The original idea is still maintained, there’s heart, there’s sadness, and there’s love. Being this is Jake’s feature debut, it amazed me that he acquire such a strong cast of talented actors; Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, James Marsden, Liv Tyler, and Peter Sarsgaard. “How were you able to get your hands on such a brilliant cast?” I asked. “It all comes down to the group of producers and industry people who believe in you”, he responded.

Set in ‘the near future’, in Cold Springs, NY, “Robot and Frank” tells the story about an old man named Frank (Langella), living alone, his mind is slowly fading away with the Alzheimer’s he’s facing. His son, Hunter (James Marsden), decides to get his father a health robot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard), whose soul purpose is to better Frank’s health. Frank of course is reluctant to have a robot take care of him, at first, but we learn some interesting facts about Frank’s past, he was a cat burglar during his early years. Old habits seem to return in a new form when Frank takes the robot on as sort of an apprentice; teaching him how to pick locks and plan heists. The two become partners in crime, so to speak; they steal a priceless book for a librarian (Susan Sarandon) that Frank has feelings for and soon enough plan a jewel heist. During their time together, Frank learns that he can find friendship in just about anyone or anything.

I love science fiction, and when indie filmmakers do them they’re even better, because they’re fresh, new, and innovative. Jake discussed at the Q & A there were a few films that came to mind as minor inspiration, the voice Robot emulated what Duncan Jones accomplished in “Moon”, casting an actor and having a voice that is calm & soothing really makes a difference. The choice of making the robot faceless was a wise one, the intention was to creep the audience out at first, and I’ll be perfectly blunt the robot was damn creepy at the beginning, but after a certain amount of time being with the robot throughout the film, learning from him, listening to him, understanding his intentions, all those feelings fly out the window and we as audience members begin to care and love the robot much as how Frank does.

I hope to see this movie make its mainstream release soon the masses must see it. For it’s rich storytelling style, it’s stylistic approach on what the ‘near future’ will become, and for the brilliant acting abilities of Frank Langella. To me, Langella has been making a great actors comeback for a few years now, and I hope to the movie Gods that he will be recognized by the Academy for his performance. He captured the audience and did it in a very empathetic manner. He’s the first actor this year that has my vote as a front-runner for Best Actor.

GRADE: A+

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One Comment leave one →
  1. April 13, 2012 10:09 pm

    Great review! 😉 Great Movie!

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