This year I seem to have a seen an excess of “nice” movies in theatres, and this is probably the nicest. I don’t mean “nice: in a condescending or facetious manner; I use it more as a way to describe movies that are comforting and enjoyable but not necessarily great. These are often films targeted at old people, and what the heck, I like a lot of them.
Robot and Frank stars Frank Langella as an ex-jewel thief whose memory is beginning to slow. His son, played by James Marsden, purchases a robot companion for him, claiming that “it’s like a butler,” but Langella refuses to accept the gift. However, once Langella realizes that the robot has no sense of morality and can be trained to pick locks and steal, the two become fast friends, helping Frank get back into the jewel business. As the film progresses, Frank’s memory begins to deteriorate more and more, and his newly-adopted life of crime becomes difficult to maintain. Liv Tyler plays Frank’s daughter and Susan Sarandon is used to good effect as a love interest.
What’s most interesting about Robot and Frank is that beneath the surface, the film seems to be some sort of rallying cry against hipster-ism. The individuals Frank seeks to steal from are what he calls “yuppies,” patronizing trust-fund babies who are interested in “retro-cool.” The anti-hipster-ness is also demonstrated further in Liv Tyler’s performance as Frank’s daughter, a free-spirited do-gooder who treats the robot like a slave while simultaneously decrying the evils of “robot labor.” These people are depicted as simple-minded buffoons, but this theme isn’t developed enough to actually make a real statement. It’s just used for comedic effect.
Overall, Robot and Frank is a relatively simple film, almost like The Intouchables or My Best Friend, but with fancier technology and such. Despite being fairly simple, it’s an earnest, touching, and generally fantastic film, one I sincerely enjoyed. It’s sad, but also a bit moving, and while there are a few plot holes, they for the most part don’t take away from the film’s sincerity. If you’re in the mood for something not-so-weighty but still fairly good, I’d suggest Robot and Frank. It’s pretty nice.
Robot and Frank is directed by Jake Schreier, starring Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, James Marsden, Liv Tyler, and Jeremy Sisto. Rated PG-13.