Jan 22, 2012
07:23 PMA Walk In The Park
LIFE IN PARK CITY
Sundance Report: Robot and Frank and Liberal Arts Crowd Pleasers
I happily hit the motherlode this weekend, and I’m not even talking about the foot of fresh powder we FINALLY received yesterday, making the pre-movie-viewing skiing out of this world. Even though I sat through two films in snow-drenched ski clothes (totally worth it), my first opening weekend Sundance films were both wonderful and hugely popular with the sold-out Eccles Center crowds (1,200 people). And both were world premieres, meaning there is a palpable excitement in the air when you're part of an audience that is the very first to see a film.
Robot and Frank was slightly quirky, hilariously funny, surprising, touching, emotional and funny again! I would highly recommend it. I took my family (husband and teenage boys) to see it, and we all adored it. The basic storyline: the adult children of a divorced older man who’s entering dementia get him a health care house robot (the movie is set at some point in the not-too-distant future) to help him keep his house up, feed him well, make sure he gets exercise and keep tabs on the status of his memory bank. (The kids are played by eye candy for all – the adorable Liv Tyler and James Marsden). Frank, played by the wonderfully grumpy Frank Langella, at first detests the idea of the robot, but as the film progresses, he learns to like the companionship, especially once he realizes that the robot can help him with an old hobby that got him six years in prison earlier in his life: burglary. The film weaves the issues of Alzheimer’s, aging, family dynamics, future technology, friendship, adventure and true love in a twisting-and-turning, visually beautiful and very humorous manner. Susan Sarandon plays the part of the ex-wife smartly and poignantly, and boy, is she still a pretty woman. I am highly recommending Robot and Frank to all.
One of the best parts of taking my high school senior son to Liberal Arts this afternoon is that I had to drag him away from his first big day of powder skiing this year at Park City Mountain Resort to attend the film. And he thought it was a documentary about colleges. This, after having just finished completing ten college application essays two weeks ago, shows me what a good kid he is, because he willingly went along even though he is sick to DEATH of the subject of college right now. When he realized, just as the lights were going down to start the film, that it was a feature film premiere, he basked in the mood of pleasant surprises for the next 97 minutes.
I am now officially a huge fan of Josh Radnor, and I haven’t ever even seen his TV show, How I Met Your Mother. I saw him two years ago for the first time in his Sundance film happythankyoumoreplease, and was smitten. Liberal Arts has won me over again. Radnor wrote it (brilliant dialogue and pacing), directed it and acted in it. He is an amazing talent. (And he’s super cute – those big, brown eyes and his character’s intellect and soft heart are a winning combination). This film is about 35-year old Jesse, who returns to his college alma mater (Kenyon College – his A.M. in real life) for the retirement dinner of an old professor (the inimitable Richard Jenkins) and starts flirting with the emotions of being back in college. Aided by a budding romance with a college sophomore, played by Elizabeth Olsen (who is fabulous and beautiful in her role), the film explores the joys and angst of a college education, the joys and disappointments of moving on to real life, true friendship and opening your heart. The short but shockingly great performance of Zac Efron as a mystical hippie dude college hang-on is worth the show in itself. The film is heartwarming, funny as hell and I’m sure it will make it into the “theaters” soon. The performance of Allison Janney as a bitter Romantic literature professor (Janney also attended Kenyon in real life) promises to be award-winning.
Both of these films have more showings before the end of the week. Wait list for a ticket! See sundance.org for schedules and information.