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Overall Rating

Awesome: 35.29%
Worth A Look52.94%
Average: 11.76%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

2 reviews, 5 user ratings

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by Jay Seaver

"The 2010s' first great midnight movie is... wait for it... a tire slasher!"
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2010 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: It's natural to be a little wary of "Rubber". It's a movie made by a French musician that takes place in America, with a gonzo concept and an experimental execution; just looking at the description, the odds of it being unbearable, either from snobbishness or quirkiness, are rather high. And while it is as absolutely bizarre as one might expect, the result is almost always genial absurdity.

That gonzo concept? A discarded tire ("Robert") somehow comes to life, rolling across the desert of the American southwest under its own power, apparently animated by pure anger. It is so angry that when it comes across something that it can't crush by rolling over it, it is able to reach out telekinetically to batter and even explode whatever lies in its path with the pure power of its rage. And yet, when it encounters Sheila (Roxane Mesquida), a young woman apparently driivng home from college, it stops, smitten, perhaps. Of course, just because Robert can't bring himself to kill Sheila doesn't mean anybody else at the motel where she has stopped is safe - a confusing turn of events for Chad (Stephen Spinella), the sheriff's deputy who comes to investigate when the bodies start piling up.

Experimental execution? Well, in addition to Spinella kicking the film off with a fourth-wall-breaking monologue about how nothing happens for a reason in the movies, we see an accountant (Jack Plotnick) setting up a spectators gallery across the desert, where a bunch of people sit in lawn chairs, watching the goings-on via binoculars. We regularly jump back there to hear comments on the action, and eventually they cross paths with the action in extremely unusual ways.

It sounds potentially insufferable, but it is, honestly, hilarious. Writer/director/editor/cinematographer Quentin Dupieux (better known, I gather, as electronica musician Mr. Oizo, another hat he wears for this production) has a marvelously deadpan sense of humor. Rubber has the general form and structure of a horror movie, but it's not a parody of the genre. Instead, Dupieux strings together one bit of absurdity after another, every scene just a bit off-center in one way or another. Not so much as to seem like they're begging for laughs, but enough that they are getting a near-constant stream of them, the effect getting bigger as the movie goes on.

This is the sort of comedy that could easily go terribly wrong, but Dupieux has a deft hand. He knows exactly how long to let an awkward pause go on, or which exact angle peaking into a cheap hotel room where Robert is sitting on a bed watching TV is going to strike the exact right balance between bizarre and strangely normal to get a laugh. In this absurdist style of comedy, everything has to seem so off-kilter or in bad taste that the actual details don't matter, but in fact it's the very precision that makes an audience laugh instead of wrinkle their collective nose and find it unappealingly weird.

That goes for the cast, too. Spinella is a straight-faced hoot as Deputy Chad, always in character even when he's in on the joke, kind of nuts but very funny. Mesquida plays what would be the final girl in a more conventional slasher movie close to straight, kind of oblivious to what's going on, funny in how charmingly ordinary she is in a nutty world. Remy Thorne is a late but funny entry as the kid who sees that Robert is cutting a bloody path through the motel but can't get anyone to believe him. Wings Hauser nails every scene as what is clearly the most intelligent guy among the group gathered to watch.

And, of course, there's Robert, the tire that doesn't speak any language but murder. Despite not having a face to focus on or a voice with which to speak (aside from the bass rumbling when he uses his mental powers), Robert becomes the film's breakout star, implacable and angry and yet, somehow, sad and lonely. A film club I belong to gives out awards for best performances by something other than a person every year, and Robert has to be a lock.

Maybe that last paragraph is a little tongue-in-cheek, but is there really any other way to approach this movie, either as a filmmaker or a critic? It's a movie about a tire that kills. It's going to either be a pretentious chore or an abusrdist masterpiece; fortunately, it is the second and is never really close to being anything else.

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originally posted: 08/15/10 15:13:32
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2010 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: Fantastic Fest 2010 For more in the Fantastic Fest 2010 series, click here.

User Comments

5/04/15 oz1701 i found it a little tiring. 3 stars
6/01/14 brian Just when I thought no one could come up with an original concept..... 4 stars
10/18/12 Ben Heberlein Don't try to prepare for this movie, just go for it. Strange and fun 4 stars
10/25/11 Annie G Freaky. Yeah, that kind of sums it up! 3 stars
4/03/11 Man out 6 Bucks Best seen in a double feature alongside Eraserhead, with ample drinks 4 stars
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  01-Apr-2011 (R)
  DVD: 07-Jun-2011


  DVD: 07-Jun-2011

Directed by
  Quentin Dupieux

Written by
  Quentin Dupieux

  Stephen Spinella
  Roxane Mesquida
  Jack Plotnick
  Wings Hauser

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