Like the best movies, the ones that manage effortlessly to work their way into your head and heart, Robot & Frank has a deceptive simplicity. It also helps to have Frank Langella, a stellar actor at his magnificent best, in the starring role. Langella’s Frank is a retired burglar, a second-story man ready to hang it up at 70. His children, Hunter (James Marsden) and Madison (Liv Tyler), don’t know what to do with him. His parental neglect extended to two prison stints.
Enter Robot (voiced with droll wit by Peter Sarsgaard), a talking machine that will keep the old-timer in line. Or so Frank’s kids think. After a few days of Robot’s lectures on diet and exercise, Frank gets his own ideas to enlist Robot in a new robbery scheme. There’s bracing humor here, and a dash of heartbreak – just don’t expect to be wrapped up in a warm and fuzzy cinematic blanket. Robot & Frank, crisply directed by newcomer Jake Schreier from a fluid script by Christopher D. Ford, is made of tougher stuff. Just like Frank’s flirtation with a librarian (a tangy Susan Sarandon), the movie keeps springing scrappy surprises. It also addresses questions of aging and neglect that Hollywood likes to run from. Langella, who’s played everyone from Dracula to Nixon onscreen, is giving a master class in acting. Enroll now.