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Rust and Bone

Posted by martinteller on April 28, 2013

Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) shows up at his sister’s house with his five-year-old son Sam (Armand Verdure) in tow.  The boy’s mother got involved with drugs and now Ali is taking care of him on his own.  He gets a job as a bouncer at a trendy nightclub.  He breaks up a beating and takes the victim, Samantha (Marion Cotillard) home.  Stephanie works in an aquatic amusement park, doing a show with killer whales.  One day, a horrible accident occurs on the job and she loses both her legs.  She turns to Ali and through his physicality — he takes part in amateur fights — finds a new strength.

Usually when I watch a movie, in the back of my mind I’m thinking about what to say in my review.  In this case, I was frustrated that nothing was coming.  And ultimately that seems to be what I’ve taken away from the movie.  Yes, it’s an unconventional romance.  Yes, there are bold strokes and striking shots and unusual soundtrack choices (including the best use of a Katy Perry song you’re likely to see).  Yes, it has a visceral physicality.  But it just didn’t add up to much for me.  It’s very similar to my reaction to Steve McQueen’s Shame… a film that blew away many viewers but despite some strong craftsmanship left me struggling for something to connect to.

Perhaps the main source of my apathy is my lack of interest in Schoenaerts’s character.  I not only didn’t like the guy but I didn’t find him interesting on any level.  His arc lacks any truly compelling nuances and feels wispy, poorly defined.  Cotillard is the far more intriguing of the two, but even then I wanted a little more psychological insight.  Too much Ali, not enough Stephanie.

I will give credit where it’s due, however: the special effects used to portray Stephanie’s leglessness are sublime, seamless.  Audiard doesn’t shy away from what must have been technically difficult shots to pull off.  It’s very nice to see this type of technology being used for something other than giant robots or fantastic creatures.  Rating: Fair (66)

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4 Responses to “Rust and Bone”

  1. nancy said

    Hey – I liked this one so much more than you did! However, I did have the benefit of discussing this with my mother, and she picked up on something I did not. Cotillard’s character likes to watch and to be in control. She had a great career controlling huge, dangerous animals. Though it seems she could have gone back to that, she instead moved on to controlling other animals – the fighter and his crowd. I do believe that he was another violent mammal that she “managed”, and that’s what she saw in him – nothing more. She didn’t want anything more. His character was thin, but that was the point. He (in my mind) was at the level of the whale to her.

    I think Cotillard’s performance was the best of 2012, and I was hugely disappointed she was not even nominated for an Oscar. My big problem with the movie was the ending. I thought the hotel lobby scene (am I remembering this correctly?) seemed tacked on and confusing, even while it’s intent was probably to tie up loose ends (also annoying).

    • That’s a really interesting and astute reading, I like it. The movie is adapted from two separate short stories so maybe that is how Audiard saw a way to join them. I disagree with the point of “she didn’t want anything more”. She has legitimately hurt feelings when he gives his attentions to another woman (after which she “trains” him not to do that!).

      Best performance of 2012? I’m still catching up with 2012 movies… I need to see Riva in AMOUR before making that call. Cotillard gave a very good performance though. I also love Kara Hayward in MOONRISE KINGDOM.

  2. JC said

    I also liked it a little more than you, but also left the theater with a “something was missing” feeling. Or maybe that something was just off? Like Nancy said above, that ending may have been it, but perhaps it was the entire movie felt too forced.

    I did love the use of ‘Firework’ which was the most emotional moment of the film for me – I never thought I’d use a Katy Perry song and ’emotional’ in the same sentence!

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