Friday, February 15, 2013

2012 Catch Up (Robot and Frank / Bernie)

Robot and Frank (2012)

Director: Jake Schreier
Writer: Christopher D. Ford
Stars: Peter Sarsgaard, Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon

This is a film that I feel could have been truly great had it focused on one particular theme, rather than try to juggle several. As it stands, we have a pleasant indie drama that touches on Frank's family relationships, his past history as a cat burglar, how he deals with growing old and his developing dementia, and how he comes to form a very real friendship with his "appliance." It all comes together fairly well, but with a narrower focus we might have a better opportunity for deeper exploration and a more impactful experience. Langella does a remarkable job with what he is given, admirably portraying a man whose memory is failing but who refuses to make himself vulnerable by admitting to this. Sarsgaard also does a great job providing the voice of the robot who, despite his direct insistence to the contrary, we come to care about as if he were human.

Score: 5 / 10

Director: Richard Linklater
Writers: Skip Hollandsworth (screenplay and original article) and Richard Linklater (screenplay)
Stars: Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, Matthew McConaughey

A very interesting dark dramedy made all the more fascinating by the fact that it is based on a true story. This film is somewhat similar to Fargo in that the comedy is often driven by the dialects employed by the actors. There are a handful of bigger laughs to be had, but for the most part it is just amusing enough to keep a smile on the face and draw an occasional chuckle.   What really makes it work is the mockumentary structure, since it allows Linklater to develop the townspeople who comment on the case into a singular entity and is really the only way to stretch the story to feature-length, though there are still a few points that drag a bit. Many of the comedic highlights take place during these interview segments. McConaughey is pretty good as the small town DA, while Jack Black is absolutely great as the amiable Bernie. Definitely Black's best performance by a long shot.

Score: 6 / 10

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