Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Review: Rubber (2011)

83 minutes
rated R

by Scott Mendelson

Yes yes, we get it. Movies aren't real and it is foolish to become emotionally invested in fictional events where there are no real rules. That was one of the many subtexts found in Chris Nolan's Inception, but here it is front-and-center as text. Those expecting a goofy horror film about a killer tire are in for a disappointment. In actuality, writer/director Quentin Dupieux uses this outlandish premise to comment on the seemingly passive nature of (American?) film audiences to willfully accept outlandish scenarios and arbitrary silliness while questioning the very nature of our active involvement in fictional worlds. It's all quite smart and clever, but did it have to be so bloody boring as well?

The film's plot, if you can call it that, concerns a random tire that comes to life and starts rolling down the road. No reason is ever given for this fantastical development. The fourth wall-smashing narration mocks this random story progression, although I'm not sure audiences should have been forced to endure a first-act origin story either. Anyway, the tire rolls along in the California desert, occasionally stopping to use his telepathic powers to blow stuff up, progressing from beer bottles to any human unlucky enough to enter his zone of doom. He eventually becomes fixated on a young woman who catches his fancy, so he spends the rest of the time stalking her as his blood-drenched killing spree continues. That's about it.

The actual narrative contains almost no dialogue from the get-go. It is the secondary story, involving about a dozen random citizens armed with binoculars who watch the story unfold and comment on it, that lends the film its postmodern snark, as well as the majority of the dialogue. Needless to say, the would-be bystanders slowly become unwilling participants in the unfolding narrative, which provides opportunities for 'woah, this is deep!' monologuing and more exploding heads. The picture isn't the least bit scary, and there is only so much comic mileage to be earned from random plot developments (at one point, a turkey just magically appears in a character's hotel room... cue offscreen slaughter and dinner for all!). Pardon my ignorance, but I may have missed the brilliant satire of the kind of filmschool pretentiousness that seems on constant display, but the movie absolutely fails to entertain on a level that would justify the artier inspirations.

Rubber is not a stupid film, but it lacks a forward momentum of any kind. The few actors with lines have inside-joke fun (Stephen Spinella makes the most of his fourth-wall intrusions). The project reeks of a certain 'make sure they get the joke' obviousness that kills any subtle enjoyment while robbing the picture of any tension or audience involvement. Of course, when you tell the audience right upfront that it's silly for us to become emotionally involved in a piece of art that we know is fake, it's a little tough for us to justify sitting through your feature-length dissertation on just that. At a seemingly-endless 83 minutes, Rubber burns, as does our patience.

Grade: C-

1 comment:

Tushar said...

Agreed that its a little longish for its linear 2-page concept, but it does have some roaring moments of hilarity and film-nerd elements. I thought it was more of a Spike Jonze film by way of Godard, film pretentiousness et al.


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