Monday, January 27, 2014

The human brain, a lovely piece of hardware.

Imagine there was something wrong with your computer and every single day it deleted ten pictures without alerting you. You couldn't even be angry about it, really, as you'd be completely unaware of what was going on. Eventually, things would get worse, and it would start dumping hundreds at a time, till there were no images left. In a futile attempt to solve the problem, you tried to reload all of them, but it had come to the point where nothing could be saved. And just as you thought about unplugging it (or tossing it off of something very high up), suddenly they were all back, right where you left them.

Now imagine I'm not talking about a computer.

Robot & Frank, the only feature film (so far) from director Jake Schreier, has been resonating within me since the credits rolled almost a week ago. While the story is set in the future, the message and implications are timeless.

Frank, as played by Frank Langella, is initially your typical Movie Old Man. The world is changing around him, and he's not really interested in keeping up. In fact, he's kind of pissed off about it.

As Frank's failing memory appears to worsen, his desperate and overwhelmed son Hunter, is forced to intervene. Hunter's solution to help his father is a robotic caretaker, the not-so cleverly named Robot. Right away (and surprising no one) Frank detests Robot, despite the little guy being incredibly helpful and charming.

Eventually, Frank and Robot become close and their friendship turns into something honest and true. Outwardly, Frank appears to be a bumbling, befuddled old man, recklessly obsessed with previous life as a cat-burglar. But as he gently coerces Robot to aid him in one last heist, Frank's mind is suddenly firing on all cylinders. Thanks to a machine, Frank has become human again.

Post heist, the heat catches up with Frank, and he must make a very difficult decision. This moment leads us to an overwhelmingly bittersweet (and supremely touching) resolution and one of the better endings I have ever seen. In ultimate slow-burn fashion, the final fifteen minutes transform Robot & Frank from a very solid movie, to something I hope to never forget. And as much as it made me smile, it left me deeply saddened, too. Either way, it's damn near perfect.

Rarely making anyone smile and not at all perfect, are the Yays and Boos. They don't know what true attachment to a machine is. They don't know Teddy Ruxpin.

This is my vote for Best Still Frame That Doesn't Feature A Naked Woman.

  • Peter Sarsgaard's voice work as Robot. Sure, he sounds a little like the legendary HAL-9000, but that's not a bad thing. That's awesome.
  • Speaking of Robot, yes his voice rules, but so does everything else about him. Especially his sweet burglarizing attire.
  • There is this little conversation between robots that might be the best thing ever. I'm functioning normally. 
  • Though my favorite quote? From Frank, it's He's my friend. From Robot, it's It would be a crime not to do it.
  • Jeremy Cisto shows up for five minutes and the first three are pure magic. He is so genuinely happy to see Frank (even though he's not supposed to be).
  • Frank's kids. If my son and daughter grow up to be like the lovely duo of Liv Tyler and James Marsden, I'll consider my life a success. Arwen and Cyclops? Impressive.
  • Self-destruct mode is the best. 
  • Dude. Frank can case a house like a motherf--ker.
  • There's some sweet during-credits footage of real-life robotic goodness that you gotta see. I mean, there's a robot THAT RIDES A BIKE. I mean, of all the things we need robots to do, I'm pretty sure leisurely bicycle riding is the most important.
  • And finally (and seriously), the script. It's a pretty simple story, all things considered, but there's so much truth in it, I was entirely impressed. The poster, and any synopsis you might read, simply don't do it justice. Bonus points for having an ending that is completely up to the viewer.
I'm not sure what's more impressive, Robot or that 1987 lawnchair.
  • Youth's reliance on gadgetry. Books are okay, kids. I promise.
  • Speaking of, Library Guy? What a douche.
  • Hey Frank, sure your mind is evaporating and all, but blowing off the lovely Susan Surandon for dinner? Unacceptable.
  • That 'lasagna' took an hour? Maybe to shit out after...
  • That twist blew my mind. This is a Boo only because I bet every other person alive saw it coming two weeks ago.
  • And finally, the ending. Listen, I loved it, but it's so sad. Worse, I have this sinking feeling that I'm headed to a similar fate to that of Frank. That's genetic, right?
It's been awhile since I've mentioned it, but this blog, in addition to being a goofy love-letter to all things cinema, is a collection of stories for my children to read (when they're much older), if I'm ever unable to tell them myself. Those weird, semi-related opening paragraphs are mainly for them (and anyone else interested in the ramblings of an idiot). Those of you reading this now quietly provide me the encouragement to continue writing. I appreciate that and won't ever forget that you took the time to read this.

Well, not for awhile anyway.


  1. Great review. It sounds interesting, I might have to check this one out soon.

    1. Thanks.

      I probably liked it more than most, but I would still recommend it regardless. Some very cool themes and ideas throughout.

  2. I've had this in my Netflix queue for awhile, and I remember considering going to it in theaters, then passing. I think I should get around to watching it now. Great review!

    1. Thanks, Brittani. It's got a pretty short you're not gambling too much.

      Let me know what you think.

  3. It sounds like you enjoyed this at least as much as I did. Glad to hear it. It is a genuinely touching movie. And I did NOT see that twist coming. Blew me away. Btw, your opening paragraph is actually perfect. I honestly wish I had thought of that myself.

    1. I really, really liked it. With you on board, I'm glad I'm not crazy. I was shocked how emotionally vested I was in Robot, especially in his final moments.

      Thanks. I always struggle with my openings. Glad you enjoyed it.

  4. "That 'lasagna' took an hour? Maybe to shit out after..." Hahaha :) And then owwwww at the ending of the review. This sounds like a lovely movie and I always love seeing Sarandon but this ending sounds like something that may make me waaay too emotional than I can be right now.

    I'm still recovering from Captain Philips.

  5. It probably isn't as heavy as I'm suggesting, but at the time, I was so sad. I'd recommend it, but you being the ass kicker you've become professionally, I know your movie time is precious. And besides... no Hiddleston.