Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
The 301 Greatest Movies Of All Time!
Empire's Guardians Of The Galaxy Cover
Does Star Wars Have A Brain Trust?
Nick Frost:
My Movie Life

The World's End star's pick of the flicks
Subscribe: 6 Issues For £15!
Subscribe today and save 37% off the cover price!
Empire Blogs
Under The Radar

Back to all blogs Comment Now

Sundance 2012: Fourth Report

Posted on Monday January 30, 2012, 00:52 by Damon Wise in Under The Radar
Sundance 2012: Fourth Report

With its strangely chipper demeanour and wry view of the near future, Jake Schreier's Robot And Frank plays a little bit like a throwback Disney TV movie, from the days when the studio made oddball curios like The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes. It stars Frank Langella as Frank, a man of retirement age who is starting to lose his marbles, much to his family's dismay. Frank doesn't see what all the fuss is about; his memory may be fading but his instincts are still sharp – when he shoplifts, it's deliberate, not an act of befuddlement – so he is outraged when his son (James Marsden) presents him with an an android careworker. The robot, who never gets a name (and is voiced by Peter Sarsgaard), tries to set a daily regime for Frank, but Frank has other ideas. Frank, we soon learn, is a former cat burglar, and in the guileless robot he sees the perfect partner in crime. Together, they plan a series of heists, culminating in a daring raid on the home of local yuppie.

Although it has nothing else in common with Red Lights (see Third Report), there is an extraordinary overlap between the two films, since both deal with the human mind and how it can be manipulated. Langella is simply perfect as Frank, the grizzled ex-con who always believes himself to be one step ahead of the law and his family, leading to some great twists and revelations as we find out, by turn, that sometimes he's right and less often he's wrong. The film's handling of Alzheimer's is certainly unique, but I'm still ambivalent about it, since it brings the story to a disappointingly tidy climax. However, Langella is just great, and there's a lot to be said for a film that allows us (and not just Frank) to invest in a mechanical man with, as it tells us repeatedly, no personality or feelings.

I approached Arbitrage with a degree of caution, since America appears to be incapable of telling stories about the financial crisis without adding layers of heavily inked moral shading. For example, I am still baffled by the rapturous reception afforded the dreadful Margin Call, which presented the traders of 2008 as being somehow like those (literally) poor fishermen in The Perfect Storm. However, director Nicholas Jarecki being the brother of Andrew and Eugene, I knew it wouldn't be a total write-off, and, indeed, it wasn't. Rather than dwelling entirely on rich people's problems, Abitrage is at its best when suggesting that the whole of human existence is subject to arbitration on every level. But even while doing that, yet again, it puts an unconvincing, glossy sheen on the lives of the privileged.

Richard Gere, extremely well-cast, plays Robert Miller, a Manhattan businessman known for his acumen and predictive skills when playing the market. As his 60th birthday looms, he begins to think about retiring and selling the family business, but an untypically disastrous investment has drained the company coffers. To cover the shortfall, Miller has arranged an illegal bridging loan from a friend, but the financiers who are supposed to be taking over are dragging their heels, and Miller's now-impatient friend is demanding his money back. This, of course, is not a good time to be involved in a driving felony, but one duly occurs when Miller falls asleep at the wheel, accidentally killing his annoying French artist mistress (played by Letitia Casta, whose part is cut mercifully short).

What follows ought to be gripping but simply ticks over like a superior airport novel, as Miller ropes in the African-American son of his former chauffeur to help him escape the scene and cover his tracks, adding some much-needed variety to a so-far one-track story. Tim Roth subsequently turns up to throw a spanner in the works, playing the most suspicious yet somehow worst cop in the world, but by this time it's quite hard to know what angle the film is coming from. Personally, I'm a bit tired of moral ambiguity in these kinds of stories, and the film's constant reference to Miller's ongoing dilemma – if he fesses up, the deal will go south, making hundreds of people redundant – gets very tiresome, when, after all, a woman lies dead and her rich lover has deliberately and callously washed his hands of her.

Lay The Favorite (pictured) was, ironically, one of the least lauded films at the festival, but I rather liked it, not least because this is the film that will likely send Rebecca Hall off on the career that Gemma Arterton was pencilled in to have. On Twitter I called it a “bubblegum Grifters”, since it presents a similar band of outsiders in a similar milieu, only this time no one gets hurt and there's a touch more toplessness. DV DeVincentis, writer of Grosse Point Blank (as no one seemed to notice) scripted it, and Stephen Frears directed it, which seems like an odd match and is doubtless the reason that it got the reviews it did.

But I thought it worked. Not only is Hall fantastic as the clueless Beth Raymer – a ditzy girl who not only craves a job with “stability, excitement and glamour” but whose father thinks that her becoming a cocktail waitress is actually a career progression – Lay The Favorite is an above-average Vegas comedy with an unusual, restless structure and some very funny lines. Much of the disdain that fell on this movie may be due to Bruce Willis's light but not exactly prominent performance as Dink, the bookie who inducts Beth into the world of gambling. I think, though, that the film will play better to female audiences, since Hall turns Beth from a clueless cutie into a woman with smarts if not brains, and that transformation alone was enough to make me smile.


Login or register to comment.

Currently No Comments

Log in below, or register to post comments
Username:
Password:
Remember Me:

CATEGORIES

Empire States (438)

Under The Radar (317)

Infinite Lives (92)

Small Screen (57)

Words From The Wise (35)

Cannes 2011 (28)

Off The Wire (24)

Comic-Con 2010 (21)

Casting Couch (2)

Oscars 2011 (1)


RECENT POSTS

Night Visions 2013: The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears, We Are What We Are, Big Bad Wolves
By Owen Williams

Night Visions 2013: Jodorowsky's Dune, Nightsatan & The Loops Of Doom
By Owen Williams

Night Visions 2013: Adjust Your Tracking (or Does Anyone Actually Miss VHS?)
By Owen Williams

Night Visions 2013: Fresh Meat, The Colony, Sawney
By Owen Williams

Film4 FrightFest 2013: Sunday and Monday
By Owen Williams

Film4 FrightFest 2013: Thursday and Friday
By Owen Williams

Bloody Cuts In Conversation
By Owen Williams

European Film Awards 2012
By Owen Williams

Night Visions 2012: Silje Reinamo and Thale
By Owen Williams

Night Visions 2012: Juan Martinez Moreno and Attack of the Werewolves
By Owen Williams


RECENT COMMENTS

Night Visions 2013: Adjust Your Tracking (or Does Anyone Actually Miss VHS?)
"Or don't..."  Owen Williams
Read comment

Aruba 2013: Juan Francisco Pardo Q&A
"Sadece on altı dakika içinde iyi bir görsel hikaye anlatmak önemli beceri ve bel"  skndrdmr
Read comment

Aruba 2013: Opening Gala
"That really amazing."  ommrudraksha
Read comment

2013 IIFF - The Winners
"Hi Simon, Trying to get in touch with you. Hope this works. I enjoyed your piece on Enter t"  matthewpolly
Read comment

Christoph Waltz will win an Oscar
"although its old now :(, of course he was gonna win it :), one of the many idols of why i wanna be a"  SONYA ALALIBO
Read comment

Brisbane International Film Festival: First Report
"I think it is pretty clear the story revolves around The Blacksmith, in The Man With The Iron Fists,"  owenyunfat
Read comment

TIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines
"Thanks for the feedback! I hope I didn't give the impression that Cloud Atlas is a write-off; I just"  Damon_Wise
Read comment

TIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines
"Hi Damon With regards to Cloud Atlas, I fear that it will face the same problem a"  ChesterCopperpot
Read comment

TIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines
"No worries! I just try to describe things as I see them, and I often forget that, as Empire has grow"  Damon_Wise
Read comment

TIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines
"Don't get me wrong, I appreciate your early reviews from the festivals, and of course, I'm not alway"  pythonlove
Read comment


POPULAR POSTS

Sundance Part Six: In The Loop
13 comments

Damo's Top Ten Of 2009
9 comments

Basterds Blog
9 comments

The Times BFI London Film Festival Preview
9 comments

Sundance 2010: Four Lions blows everyone away!
8 comments

Sundance 2010: The Killer Inside Me causes outrage!
7 comments

Chris Hewitt Of The Year Award!!!!
7 comments

TIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines
7 comments

The Wrestler
6 comments

Where to see Moon...
6 comments


BLOGGERS
Damon Wise (297)
Helen O'Hara (166)
James Dyer (86)
Amar Vijay (71)
Ali Plumb (56)
James White (29)
Phil de Semlyen (19)
Owen Williams (15)
Ally Wybrew (2)
Ben Kirby (1)
Ian Nathan (1)
Dan Jolin (1)
David Parkinson (1)

SPECIAL FEATURE
The 301 Greatest Movies Of All Time EMPIRE READERS' POLL: THE 301 GREATEST MOVIES OF ALL TIME
You turned out in your hundreds and thousands, and here are the results... Browse the full list


CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
How To Create Your Dragon: The Inspirations Behind The Creatures
DreamWorks' animator reveals the ingredients for the movie's dragons

Video: Mark Ruffalo On Begin Again, Science Bros And Underpants Acting
Plus Empire meets director John Carney and co-star James Corden

Movie Poster Mashups: The Wes Anderson Edition
You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll be appalled at the punning...

Film Studies 101: Ten Movie Formats That Shook The World
The pre-digital innovations that formed modern cinema

Exodus: Gods And Kings: Ridley Scott's Trailer Breakdown
The director talks us through his enormous Biblical epic

Jay Baruchel Talks How To Train Your Dragon 2
From The Human Centipede to the origin of 'Useless reptile'

Watch: Industrial Light & Magic's Greatest Hits
From Star Wars to Transformers, we run through some of the best individual moments from the special effects masters

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get The 301 Greatest Movies Of All Time Subscribers' Cover

Subscribe today and get the cover and 3 issues for only £10!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save maney on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 12 issues of Empire for just £18!
Special 25th anniversary offer for one month only! Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)