Frank Langella gives one of the best performances of his career in Robot & Frank, a beguiling little movie about aging, loneliness and larceny. Frank (Langella) lives alone and suffers from memory problems. His son (James Marsden), concerned about the situation, provides his dad with a talking humanoid helper-robot, despite the objections of his sister (Liv Tyler), who views such devices as an easy way to avoid human contact. She lives far away, incidentally, and rarely comes to visit.
Frank hates the appliance, which looks like a cut-rate storm trooper, but gradually adjusts to the thing. He soon begins treating it like a person, despite the robot’s repeated reminders that it isn’t. Peter Sarsgaard provides the soothing voice of the robot, by the way. Tasked with getting Frank active and involved with life again, the robot cooperates when Frank, an ex-con, comes up with a plan to use the robot’s abilities to pull off a heist.
What else do you need to know? Susan Sarandon costars as a librarian friend of Frank’s. The story, which suffers from too many contrived moments, includes some interesting commentary on where our society is heading. Primarily, though, this is a showcase for Langella’s acting skills as he plays a man determined to disassociate from others, but unable to triumph over his need for company. The story is clunky, but the result is sweet.