Rubber: A Tiring Film

Directed by Quentin Dupieux
Written by Quentin Dupieux
Starring Stephen Spinella, Roxane Mesquida, Jack Plotnick and Wings Hauser

If you see only one film this year about a murderous telekinetic tire, sadly, it will have to be this one.

Our Protagonist, being hassled by The Man.

Your normal moviegoer isn’t going to touch this with a ten-foot pole, so this review is aimed at fellow freak-cinema aficionados, the sort of people who see a trailer for a film about a murderous telekinetic tire, and go “Oh yeah! I have to see that!”

You might want to reconsider.

I am totally down with the idea of a film about a murderous telekinetic tire, but Rubber disappointed me. About half the film, the scenes of the tire itself, its slowly building murderous rampage (it starts out with small animals before going all Scannners on various humans unfortunate enough to cross its path), and it stalking a random hot French chick, work almost as well as I hoped they would. All it needed was some recycled Michael Bay music for the perfect over-dramatic touch.

Hot French chick included.
Sadly, it doesn't really help.

Unfortunately, the other half of the film ruins the tire-rampage sections, by imposing an arty-farty, post-modern, metafictional framing device whereby a bunch of slow-witted redshirts are lured into the desert to watch the tire’s rampage through dispensed binoculars as part of some sort of…what? Performance art? These parts serve only to pad out the film (and it’s a bad sign when an 82 minute film feels badly padded), provide a few (far too few) laughs, and heighten the artificial nature of the whole endeavor.

This is the wrong narrative strategy.

The way to make a film like this work is never to wink at the audience. Minoru Kawasaki provides great example of how to do this in The Calamari Wrestler and Executive Koala. The more absurd the actions, the more serious the actors played it. No one pointed out the combat boots sticking out of the giant squid, or the obvious zipper on the back of the koala’s head. Unlike Rubber, nobody comes out and gives a speech at the beginning about why things are done for “no reason.” Or, to pick a domestic example, no one walks on screen during Team America: World Police to point out how all the characters are marionettes.

Some things in the film work. The scene of the tire sitting in the hotel room watching NASCAR really captures the absurdest vibe the director seemed to be aiming for. The opening bit where the car knocks down every single artfully disarrayed breakaway chair almost works as a sort of white trash Jacques Tati cinematic tone poem. It’s got well-executed exploding heads. And you get to see Roxane Mesquida’s very shapely French ass for a few seconds while she takes a shower, which would be a big deal if it wasn’t for, you know, the Internet. (NSFW. You’re welcome.)

About the only way I can recommend seeing this is as part of a viewing party for weird films, especially if you give out a prize for whoever can come up with the most tire-related puns. But even in that context, it’s not remotely as inventive (or interesting) as the far-less-technically-competent Die, You Zombie Bastards!, which delivers steady doses of WTF throughout.

My advice? You shouldn’t see any films about murderous telekinetic tires until a better one rolls along.

Here’s the trailer, which includes most of the best scenes:

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5 Responses to “Rubber: A Tiring Film”

  1. Dwight Brown says:

    I’m kind of sorry I missed this, and kind of sorry it turned out to be a rather flat film, but I do think Quentin Dupieux deserves some credit for making something original, and not a retread of someone else’s idea.

    I didn’t realize this until I did some (ahem) research, but Roxane Mesquida was also in Catherine Breillat’s “Fat Girl” (she was the more attractive sister) which is a rather acclaimed film. And which is available on Criterion. I may have to pick that up.

  2. Carol T says:

    Nicely put Lawrence. I think much less winking would have helped. Dwight you should have been there. Your puns might have made this a less tiring expience.

  3. Dwight Brown says:

    I wish I had been there, Carol. Stupid phone. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like anything could have made this movie better, but a few belts may have made it more entertaining.

    (At this point, Lawrence is probably drawing a bead on me.)

  4. Lawrence Person says:

    Give the director’s inflated sense of self-worth, nothing could save this retread from skidding off the road.

  5. […] “weird of for the sake of weird” examples I could name (I’m looking at you, Rubber). And the non-linearity of the narrative matches the protagonist’s altered perception of […]

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