Frank (Frank Langella) and Robot (voice by Peter Sarsgaard) in Robot & Frank.
By Ed Rampell
Jake Schreier’s wry science fiction, complex comedy, Robot & Frank, has plenty of plot twists and turns that keeps audiences guessing and takes them by surprise until the very last frame. Frank Langella plays the eponymous Frank, an aging man plagued by memory loss. Frank’s son, Hunter (James Marsden), coerces his old man to accept a robotic caregiver (voice by Peter Sarsgaard) -- or face institutionalization. Comic complications, however, ensue as the two title characters form an unlikely relationship and Frank’s prior choice of career is revealed.
Meanwhile, the apparent mechanization of Frank’s life is opposed by his globetrotting daughter, Madison (Liv Tyler), who jet sets back from some sort of anthropological work in Turkmenistan to rescue her dad from the robot’s clutches at his home in upstate New York. There, Frank is attracted to the librarian, Jennifer (Susan Sarandon), whose small town library is being digitized and yuppified. Jeremy Sisto plays the village constable who’s called in when valuables -- vintage books, jewels -- mysteriously go missing.
Just when you think the futuristic Robot & Frank is about one thing -- such as elder care being provided by robots -- Christopher Ford’s inventively witty script ducks and weaves and takes us into another completely different direction. In the end, this well acted, enjoyable romp is more about a theme than a plot: The aging process, persistence (or lack) of memory (deleting a robot’s memory is akin to Alzheimer’s Disease) and family. Then there is the mystery behind Jennifer.
But your plot spoiler adverse critic won’t ruin the surprises for you, dear filmgoers -- unlike the dolts on KPCC’s “Film Week” program who, on June 22, without warning revealed Woody Allen’s imaginative, hilarious sight gag in To Rome With Love on the radio, then promptly went on to tell listeners the funniest scene in the new Steve Carrell and Keira Knightley comedy, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. Blabbermouths who aren’t talented enough to know how to “review” works without giving away their best moments aren’t critics -- they’re plot spoilers. And there is a special seat in hell reserved for idiotic, incompetent “reviewers” who rob film fans of the joyous act of self discovery and finding out for one’s self -- instead of from some loose lips, no talent, big mouth.
Robot & Frank will at the Los Angeles Film Festival: June 23, 7:10 p.m., Regal Cinemas.