Thursday, February 16, 2012

Nevermore Flashback: Rubber (2010)

Nevermore 2012 begins tomorrow - but in the meantime, here's a review from last year. 

Rubber flat-out tells you it’s going to be weird in the first scene. Sounds great. I’ll gladly watch a movie where a tire gains sentience and rolls around blowing things up with its mind. But do I need to be told it's weird? After the opening monologue, the film takes things a step further along the meta axis and introduces an in-film audience - a whining, bickering, permanently unsatisfied bunch of people who proceed to suffer constant abuse at the hands of a police sheriff who takes the role of ad-hoc director. If it wasn't clear before, this cemented my initial suspicion that director Quentin Dupieux doesn't have much faith in his viewers. If you can get past these initial hurdles, things settle down and get more interesting.

As we hear in the opening monologue, there’s “no reason” for the plot, other than that a movie needs a plot. Really, when you think about it, is the plot of Rubber that much weirder than say… most other Hollywood blockbusters? Robert is a tire that wakes up and becomes sentient, and in the opening scenes (which are really well done) we see him figuring out how to stand up, roll around, and make things explode. Throughout all of this, we're shown scenes of the audience commenting relentlessly on Robert. As we get to know the audience more, the more annoying they get, and eventually it's clear that they're a bunch of insufferable dunces. Films that break the fourth-wall don’t always work for me, particularly when they start to criticize the viewer (e.g. Funny Games). Thankfully, by making this fake audience so stupid, you can confidently place yourself in a higher caliber of film-goer. This is a bullet that's just narrowly dodged though.

As the film continues, the plot gets more and more self-referential, until eventually it's toying with the idea of how a movie should or shouldn't progress. I unconsciously expected the events to build  to a climax, but that's one thing we're denied. A let-down? Maybe, but it fits with the rest of the film. I can't complain without sounding like one of the in-film audience members, which is exactly what I think Dupieux intended.

If this was a little less pretentious (especially toward the end) I would have enjoyed it more. Still, the core idea is entertaining, the visuals are polished, the music is good, and it’s fun when it’s not so preoccupied with its message. Dupieux has turned out a very slick first feature, and it'll be interesting to see where he goes it from here, especially with the ambition he's shown in Rubber.

7/10 = Good, despite being somewhat pretentious.

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