It's a ubiquitous photo I've been seeing everywhere. Famed actor Frank Langella staring down a robot, with a funny, surprised look on his face. Robot and Frank? What exactly is this?
I know, there's so many remakes out there even I'm getting confused by a movie that isn't a comic book adaptation, or a tired reboot. But apparently Robot and Frank is terrific original (yes, original) movie that's getting wonderful notices, especially for Langella's performance.
Even the one sentence synopsis shows you this is not a typical night at the movies. An aging thief needs someone to look after him in his old age, and his son gets him a robot to take care of him. Director Jake Schreier told the L.A. Times "It is a funny mix of tone and genre," and it's great to see a genre like sci-fi being reinvented in such a unique way.
As Langella told the Times, he got the role because Christopher Walken turned it down, but Langella's had quite a career resurgence with Frost Nixon, and his recent best-selling biography Dropped Names. Langella also played a great Dracula on stage and in the under-rated 1979 Universal remake, which definitely deserves a second look today.
As Rutger Hauer recalled in his autobiography, All Those Moments, when he played Roy Batty in Blade Runner, he felt that if the replicant had any emotions or feelings, it was always supposed to just be running patterns and programs in its system. Similarly, as Schreier told the Times, the robot doesn't have a soul or a heart, it's what Frank projects onto it that gives the movie its heart.
As Andrew Niccol, screenwriter of The Truman Show and the upcoming Stephanie Meyer adaptation The Host has proved, you don't need tons of hardware to make a great sci-fi story, and Robot and Frank was done for a very low budget, especially by today's standards, about $2.5 million.
An original movie that's getting great response that's not a remake or a reboot, and it didn't cost three trillion dollars? Seriously, how cool is that?