Seen: At the Kendall Square Landmark Cinema in Cambridge.
Well my boyfriend is really into robots so Robot & Frank sounded like necessary viewing. Set in a not-so-distant future where advanced robots are incorporated into everyday life, the film centers on Frank (Frank Langella), a cantankerous senior citizen who receives an assisted-living robot (voiced awesomely by Peter Sarsgaard) as a gift from his overworked son Hunter (James Marsden). A former cat burglar, Frank has been experiencing memory loss and disorientation, and Hunter hopes a robot programmed to keep him healthy and on a set routine is a good alternative to placing his father in a nursing home. Though at first he resents the robot's presence, eventually Frank sees him as the perfect accomplice for performing a few neighborhood robberies.
Updating the tried-and-true formula of crotchety old dude who gains an unlikely best friend, only this time it's a robot, Robot & Frank is cute and often quite funny. It's set in a sort-of-familiar world where technology has advanced but not much else is different, and asshole hipsters are old enough to run things and obsess over whatever's now considered vintage (this movie is seriously anti-hipster, it's great). Frank is uncomfortable with a lot of the technological developments around him, but comes to see the robot as a personality, and as a friend. They have some truly adorable interactions, and I'm pretty sure the movie could have ended with the two of them going on the road as a comedy act, but alas, it was not to be. Instead they go on a mini crime spree, roping in Frank's grown children as accidental accomplices. I loved James Marsden as the frustrated son Hunter- he's trying to do the right thing but he can't get over his father's criminal past and multiple long-term prison sentences. Liv Tyler is mostly annoying as Frank's patronizing activist daughter but I was curious about whatever anti-robot movement she seemed to be part of. No one elaborated.
While I enjoyed the dialogue and most of the characters, the actual plot of Robot & Frank is lacking. It's more episodic, and certain elements don't pull together well through the various tonal shifts. The ending aims for heart-breaking, but just felt out of place and led to more questions, and the most important issues weren't actually resolved. But at least Susan Sarandon was in some scenes, being perfect, as she does.
Pair This Movie With: I would go with Moon for another fun robot-man relationship, only this time IN SPACE.