89.1 WEMU

Langella Holds The Screen In 'Robot And Frank'

Aug 24, 2012
Originally published on August 24, 2012 11:56 am
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.


Now, the summer blockbuster season at the movies is nearly over, which means some smaller and more independent films are making their way into theaters. Film critic Kenneth Turan saw "Robot and Frank."

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: "Robot and Frank" is a movie that makes us believe that a serene automaton and a snappish human being can be best friends forever. It deftly uses elements from both science fiction and classic caper films to tell its futuristic tale. The story opens with Frank, a retired cat burglar played by the letter-perfect Frank Langella, suddenly realizing he's broken into his own home.

Frank may have once been a high end jewel thief, but at age 70 he has difficulty remembering things. The only bright spot in his routine are visits to the local library, where he flirts with the establishment's last remaining flesh and blood librarian, played by Susan Sarandon.


SUSAN SARANDON: (as Jennifer) So, what'll it be? The usual?

FRANK LANGELLA: (as Frank) Well, I came for the books, but I'd be more interested in getting your phone number.

TURAN: Frank's son, who's married with children, worries that his dad's memory loss is so bad, he thinks he's still in college. So he comes up with an expensive, futuristic solution. He gives Frank a VGC-60L health care aide, a talking robot that's programmed to cook, clean and get Frank on a healthy lifestyle regimen.


LANGELLA: (as Frank) I'm not this pathetic. I don't need to be spoon-fed by some robot.

JAMES MARSDEN: (as Hunter) Dad, it's not like that. It's new. It's more like a butler.

LANGELLA: (as Frank) You're going to leave me with this death machine?

MARSDEN: (as Hunter) What's the problem? It's a robot.

PETER SARSGAARD: (as Robot) Hi, Frank. It's a pleasure to meet you.

LANGELLA: (as Frank) How do you know?

TURAN: That soothing, philosophical robot, flawlessly voiced by Peter Sarsgaard, turns out to be the antithesis of the malevolent HAL 9000 in "2001: A Space Odyssey." He really does want to help. Langella makes us believe absolutely in the growing relationship between man and object, even though the actor never heard Sarsgaard's voice until he viewed the finished film.

Langella uses delicacy and underplaying to effortlessly hold the screen, even when he's all by himself. Joining his classic old school acting with a youthful independent sensibility, "Robot and Frank" gives us hope that maybe the future won't be so bad after all.


INSKEEP: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and for the Los Angeles Times. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.