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Robot & Frank

Frank Langella makes the most of his new robot companion in this dramedy about aging

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In this slightly off-beat dramedy set in the near future, elderly Frank (Frank Langella) is failing. He dodders about his house, tucked away outside some small New York town; eats sugary cereal; visits the library and chats with the librarian (Susan Sarandon); and shoplifts from town stores. He's lonely, angry, and prone to memory loss, so his son (James Marsden) gets him a caretaker robot. Frank hates the robot, which tries to engage him in enervating projects, until he realizes the robot could be a useful companion. Frank, you see, used to be a burglar, so he trains the robot to help him break into the houses of the nearby yuppies he despises.

Jake Schreier's film is a fun little twist on a story that is, at its heart, a more common bittersweet tale of how some aspects of old age can rob individuals of independence, well being and dignity. Making the robot his partner in crime is just what Frank needs; it not only gives him a purpose, but it helps focus his anger (against the robot, the young people changing is town, his fears of mortality). The film is a bit rambling, and has trouble establishing Frank as a fully developed human. But Langella is entertaining, portraying Frank as a proud man fighting for his sense of self, even if that renewed vitality is rooted in mean-spirited behavior. Plus, who doesn't want to see Langella chew out a self-righteous robot?

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