What's Hot
  • 100 things you must do in Orlando before you die A list of things everyone who lives in Orlando should do at least once | 12/4/2013
  • Vote smart: Why the Aug. 26 elections are important Your vote matters, and here’s why | 8/20/2014
  • 6 things to do if you don’t love the club Want to go out, but you don’t feel like hanging out at clubs? Try one of these activities instead | 8/13/2014
  • Watering holes UCF college haunts Knight Library 11448 University Blvd., knightlibrary.com Named one of the top college bars in the country by thedailymeal.com, Knight Library has four bars, beer pong, tons of drink specials and notoriously gross bathrooms, just like an | 8/13/2014
  • The best things in life are cheap (or free) Tuition is high, your student loan repayments are looming and chances are you barely have $2 stashed away in your dorm room for an emergency. But, somehow, you still gotta live. That’s what student discounts and freebies are for. They’re hardly publicize | 8/13/2014
  • How to study abroad (the right way) In the words of Saint Augustine, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” Whether taking a weeklong excursion to Africa or spending a semester in Europe, studying abroad is at the top of many college bucket lists. So read away, m | 8/13/2014
  • Is Disney making kids gay? Ridiculous column pulled from Tampa Tribune after public outcry | 8/20/2014
What's Going On


Search thousands of events in our database.


Search hundreds of restaurants in our database.


Search hundreds of clubs in our database.

Orlando Daily Deals powered by ReferLocal

OW on Twitter
OW on Facebook
Print Email

Film & DVD

Robot & Frank

Frank Langella shines in a compelling film with far-from-artificial intelligence

Photo: , License: N/A

Robot & Frank


It’s been quite a year for first-time directors, with Benh Zeitlin getting most of the attention for Beasts of the Southern Wild. Although Jake Schreier’s Robot & Frank isn’t exactly an attention-grabber on the scale of Beasts, it deserves praise for its touching and subtle commentary on aging, family and friendship in a world dominated by technology.

In a very convincing though not overdone near future, Frank (Frank Langella) is a retired, long-divorced jewel thief living alone in upstate New York, fiercely protective of his privacy and independence and doing his best to hide his early-onset Alzheimer’s from his two kids. But when the weekly drive to visit his cantankerous father becomes too much, Frank’s son does what any loving offspring in mid-21st-century America would do: He buys his dad a robot to serve as companion, cook and housekeeper.

But Robot – it’s never given a proper name – soon becomes a different type of helper. In a clever twist, Frank soon realizes that his fiberglass friend (who is, thankfully, not computer generated) is perfectly suited to burglary, and it isn’t long before the pair attempt a major grab. It seems Robot, while being programmed with the definitions of “steal” and other crimes, can’t quite grasp their practicality and is concerned only with tasks that bring mental health and joy to Frank.

Schreier and writer Christopher Ford, also in his feature-film debut, create a compelling tale not because we’re fascinated by the technology that allows Robot to exist – a technology still just slightly beyond our reach in 2012 – but because their story of growing old is one we already know, just told in a fascinatingly new way. The film displays a lot of the muddle and drift typical of a new director, but thanks to a couple of touching little turns of the screw in the third act, it mostly satisfies.

The supporting cast is competent, with James Marsden and Liv Tyler as the children, and Susan Sarandon as a friend, but the film belongs to Langella. Few actors convey the endearing curmudgeon in quite the same touching and comical way. His performances in Dave,

Frost/Nixon (for which he received an Oscar nomination) and even The Box, a subpar film he nevertheless made better, all are noteworthy, but this may be his finest screen work. Peter Sarsgaard’s voice-over as Robot is pitch-perfect, too, as the Green Lantern actor adds his name to the pantheon of slightly creepy digital concoctions, alongside Douglas Rain’s Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey and Kevin Spacey’s GERTY in Moon.

Even more intellectually challenging than the story itself is the film’s contention that a machine can adapt to new tasks, while humans, particularly Frank, are frozen in a single behavioral pattern, unable to reprogram and wipe away our more negative tendencies. Ironically, a movie about a robot possesses more humanity than most films you’ll see all year.

We welcome user discussion on our site, under the following guidelines:

To comment you must first create a profile and sign-in with a verified DISQUS account or social network ID. Sign up here.

Comments in violation of the rules will be denied, and repeat violators will be banned. Please help police the community by flagging offensive comments for our moderators to review. By posting a comment, you agree to our full terms and conditions. Click here to read terms and conditions.
comments powered by Disqus