ROBOT AND FRANK—-aging parolee and lifelong jewel-thief ‘Frank’ (Frank Langella, 76) is afflicted with the onset of dementia. Tired of thankless visits to the difficult coot, son James Marsden buys Frank a domestic robot. Though increasingly clouded, Frank’s judgement still has enough guile to see that legality-neutral Robot can be of use in pulling off heists, one of which can help Frank’s librarian crush (Susan Sarandon).
Directed as a freshman outing by Jake Schreier, written by college buddy Christopher Ford (his first feature script), it’s a neat light-comedy/light drama look at aging, the fragility of memory, and the need for friendship. It also manages a refreshingly un-horrified take on emerging technology: set in a near-future, it has an amusing array of clever ‘things to come’, and this Robot is more a diminutive kin to the fabled helper from Lost In Space than an unstoppable replicant or The Terminator.
The 89 minutes runs a bit slack toward the last quarter, but Langella’s back & forth with his toy-friend (voice courtesy of Peter Sarsgaard) is engaging. Produced for $2,500,000, it drew a scant $4,900,000 in 2012. With Liv Tyler, Jeremy Strong, Jeremy Sisto, Rachael Ma (the 4’11” dancer inside the stifling robot mockup) and Ana Gasteyer.