My wife and I went to see “Robot and Frank” yesterday and something happened that I’ve never seen before: the projectionist introduced himself to the crowd. Normally, the only time you even see the projectionist at a movie theater is when there’s a serious problem — the film is irreparably broken, there’s no electricity, someone poured popcorn butter all over the coming attractions. But there was no problem this time, just a guy in his late 20s walking to the front of the theater and announcing, “Hi, I’m Josh, I’m the projectionist.” He said it in the same way a waiter would, right before asking if we’d like something to drink while we look over the menu.
Josh The Projectionist continued, “Thank you for coming today. If you have any problems — if the picture’s blurry, or the sound isn’t loud enough, or anything else, please let me or one of the other employees know about it, and we’ll fix it right away. Again, thank you for coming, enjoy the movie, and Happy Labor Day!”
We have been going to that theater at Plaza Frontenac for over a decade, and had never been greeting by the projectionist. As we (and the rest of the crowd) sat there with quizzical looks on our faces, Josh happily walked up the aisle and into the booth, where he turned down the lights and started projecting non-blurry images and crystal-clear sound. So, what was that about? Neither of us had any idea, but I guessed that it might have to do with Labor Day — perhaps management was allowing the staff a moment of recognition on their holiday?
As for the movie, “Robot and Frank” is a lot of fun, although not in the way our fellow attendees thought. It takes place in the future, where Frank Langella plays an ex-cat-burglar now in his 70s beginning to lose his mental faculties but still living alone. His son, James Marsden, worries about his father and buys him a talking home health-care robot, which will cook and clean, put Frank on a regular schedule, and keep him engaged. Frank, of course, despises the idea, but since his son insists it’s that or a mental facility, he goes along. Soon, Frank bonds with the robot and teaches him how to open locks and plan burglaries. There’s a parallel plot involving the local library, which Frank still visits because he loves books and has an attachment to the librarian, played by Susan Sarandon. To his chagrin, with all information now digitized, there’s little need for the books, so the new young head of the library is having them removed and the space turned into something else. And there’s your antagonist.
I won’t give away any more, but will say that we enjoyed it. Langella is always fun to watch, Sarandon is incapable of a bad performance, and the supporting cast (including the person operating the robot, which is voiced by Peter Saarsgard) are all good, too. However, unlike the others in the theater, my wife and I didn’t find it hysterically funny. We don’t even consider it an out-and-out comedy, but a clever drama with some amusing moments. She thinks some of the laughter came from people who find it amusing to hear senior citizens curse. I don’t know. It’s certainly light-hearted, not dour, and there were plenty of moments that made us smile, but the audience acted like they were watching “Bridesmaids.”
Maybe they were still confused by Josh The Projectionist.