Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Robot and a National Treasure

Frank Langella Superb in “Robot & Frank”

By Skip Sheffield

Actor Frank Langella is a national treasure who has won awards on stage, in television and movies. At age 74 Langella is at the peak of his skills. Exhibit A is “Robot & Frank,” a film that opened this year’s Palm Beach International Film Festival. It opens Aug. 31 at FAU’s Living Room Theaters.
“Robot & Frank” is based on a story by Christopher D. Ford, 31, who wrote it as a thesis as a graduate student at New York University. Ford’s NYU classmate Jake Scheir, 30, directs.
The story is set in the “near future,” which means things are familiar, but there are some technological upgrades. The most significant is the android robot of the title, designed as a caretaker and help mate for Frank Weld (Langella), an ex-con former cat burglar who lives alone in a messy house in upstate New York. The robot is bought by Frank’s concerned adult children Hunter (James Marsden) and Madison (Liv Tyler). The kids have good reason to fear their dad is slipping into dementia. The robot can help and protect him and Frank discovers further practical though illegal uses for his little helpmate, voiced drolly by Peter Sarsgaard.
Like most older people Frank has his good days and his bad. When he is feeling frisky he visits the local library and flirts with pretty Jennifer (Susan Sarandon).
Jennifer’s days as librarian are numbered however, because a rich young entrepreneur (Jeremy Strong) has bought the library building. He plans to digitalize all the books and get rid of the hard copies. One very valuable specimen is a first edition of Cervantes’ “Don Quixote.”
“Robot & Frank” is a comedy with serious theme regarding aging, independence, love and responsibility. Langella is such a consummate actor he pulls off the divergent aspects of his character with ease. He could not have asked for better support than what he gets from Susan Sarandon, Liv Tyler and James Marsden. “Robot & Frank” is a little masterpiece that unites generations in a creative cause. It is proof a movie doesn’t have to be big, expensive noisy or violent to be good.