Sunday, December 1, 2013

Robot and Frank

  Robot and Frank is not a good movie. It's just not. It has all the right ingredients but mixes them wrong. The movie is about an old man named Frank. Frank (Langella) used to be a cat burglar. However, now he lives alone- forgetting that his favorite eatery is now a candle shop, and shoplifting trinkets just for the heck of it. His adult children try to stay involved and help him in vastly different ways. His daughter tries to be as supportive as humanly possible- from afar. She travels for a living and regrets she can't help her father in person. And then there's Frank's son who laments having to make the ten hour round trip drive to see his dad only to find the house a pig sty, and Frank intent on eating at "Harry's". (Which... is now the aforementioned candle shop) So his son's solution is to buy him a helper robot. Thus the movie kicks off...

  Any seasoned moviegoer can predict this movie like the back of their hand. Frank is going to detest the robot at first, then he'll find out that the robot can be his burglary buddy (has a cute ring to it doesn't it?), then he'll grow fond of the robot and not want to part ways with it. Which is more or less exactly what happens. Only they missed a beat. I guess this review is semi-spoileristic,  but bear with me. Frank is a jerk. He's manipulative, rude, abrasive and doesn't care. You expect Frank to befriend the robot... Unfortunately, despite an adorably charming personality that actor Peter Sarsgaard infused into this plain looking robot- Frank never actually befriends him. Which is a problem because the last act revolves around the fact Frank suddenly considers the robot his friend. Yet they never developed a friendship.

  A casual moviegoer might be confused and argue this fact with me. Yet consider this, Frank uses the robot to help him with his burglaries. He manipulates and tricks and coerces the robot into helping him pull off heists. That is all the robot is good for to him. Sure, Frank gets used to the Robot's superb cooking... but there is no development of a friendship here. It's hollow. I'm sure the filmmakers thought they had a decent character arc, but no sir they do not. Frank starts out as a jerk, and ends the movie as a thoroughly senile jerk. It's hard to care about Frank and is easier to care about the lifeless robot which Frank uses like a tool no less animate than a lock pick.  Frank lies to his children, lies to his love interest, and spends the movie lying to everyone who cares about him. You'd expect him to learn his lesson and when the robot quotes back to Frank something he told it earlier on- you're ready for Frank to have a revelation that he's been an asshole. He doesn't. Instead he gets away not only with a crime, but with being an asshole.

  Every tender moment that Frank shares with another human being in the movie, is often a ruse for him to get what he wants. Amazingly, Frank and the Robot have excellent chemistry. If the movie was made better there might have been a real friendship arc between them. All we currently have is the potential for one. The potential for a friendship, and the potential for a better movie. Despite how heartwarming this had the potential to be, it left me cold and upset. I emotionally invested myself in these characters only to be jerked around for a while and manipulated. Just like Frank does to anyone who cares about him. The movie tries to convince you that in the midst of using the Robot, like well... a robot, and manipulating it into doing his bidding- he actually formed a meaningful friendship with it. Yet, he didn't. He really didn't. They bicker and there's tension, and only when Frank gets his own selfish way does he claim to appreciate the Robot. This is horrible. It's just not good.

  The movie never redeems itself, just as Frank never does. The movie and Frank himself seem to parallel each other. They're both manipulative, conniving, and they never learn their lesson. I felt bad for this movie because it could have been fun and heartwarming. It had all the potential to be. Unfortunately, I felt it was a waste of my time. If you want your emotions manipulated and jerked around for an hour and a half, give this movie a shot. If not... steer clear. I can't recommend this at all. Which is a shame due to the level of talent and good acting involved. A total misfire.

1 comment:

  1. This was a very well-stated review and I agree with it on all counts. Bravo.