De rouille et d'os (Rust and Bone) Reviews
Great Film!!! For quite some time into the film it seems both the film and its main characters aimlessly sit in their cocoon without breaking out. One feels some very vague potential in people but somehow their very lives seem the greatest impediments to its blossoming. One wonders what the film is about and where it is going. Like its characters, it feels like a bunch of loose ends aimlessly hanging about. But I must say that at the end of the movie it has grown on you: suddenly, as the story progresses, the film hatches, the characters break out of their cocoon and in retrospect one feels one has been witness to the improbable -and yet realistic- birth of an unusual but deep love story between two common people. The story has a hidden intensity of screenplay which is intensely performed by Schoenaerts and Cotillard. It creeps beneath your skin. If you like Audiard's way of developing gradual character drama with an intensity that seems to be implicit, buried beneath trailer-trash but still strongly present, you'll like this film. It's a story of how one can find anew a purpose in life when one feels like wasted trash. The cinematography and soundtrack are pretty beautiful too, completing a fantastic triumph of an understated film.
Put in charge of his young son, Alain leaves Belgium for Antibes to live with his sister and her husband as a family. Alain's bond with Stephanie, a killer whale trainer, grows deeper after Stephanie suffers a horrible accident.
I appreciated the screenplay skipping those "in-between" scenes that normally play out, left to our imagination. Bookending the film with two Bon Iver songs didn't hurt!
Alain van Versch (Matthias Schoenaerts) is struggling to take care of him self and his young son, Sam. Alain's ex-wife, and Sam's mother, used the boy as part of her drug trades. Alain moves in with his sister and gets a job as a nightclub bouncer. It's at the club where he meets Stephanie (Cotillard), a marine trainer. She's also feisty and getting kicked out for starting a fight. Stephanie works at a Sea World-esque water park, and one horrific day one of the whales makes a wrong turn. It runs into the stage, knocking Stephanie unconscious into the water where, we learn, a whale has eaten her legs below her knee. She contacts Alain and the two form an unlikely friendship, one that turns physical as Stephanie worries what her sexual performance will be like under her new circumstances. Alain dreams of becoming a professional kick boxer/MMA fighter, and he performs in underground fights as another means of income. Stephanie tags along and helps motivate him win his fights. The two grow closer, but Alain struggles with what real feelings might mean.
Rust and Bone has a serious case of multiple personality disorder. It looks like it's going to be one movie, then all of a sudden it changes into another, and then when you think you've got a handle on that, it suddenly transforms into another. I'm perfectly fine with a movie switching gears suddenly, however, with Rust and Bone, I felt like I was getting three different half-hearted drafts rather than an actual movie. I went into the film knowing little other than the selling point, that Cotillard was playing a woman readjusting to life after a freak accident took her legs. For the first twenty minutes of the movie, I didn't get a shred of this. I got a single father trying to scrape together what he could for himself and his son, often resorting to sneaky and illegal measures. Then shortly after Stephanie is introduced, the movie becomes all about her. We're dealing with her recovery and her anger and her loss. Just when I think I've settled onto the narrative direction of the movie, it becomes Alain's movie again. Now we're following his budding career as an amateur kick boxer, with Stephanie as his cheerleader. Then she dissolves into the background of the movie yet again, and it's all about him. I don't think the movie knew which character it wanted to be its focal point, so we get a sloppy interspersing of storylines vying for dominance. Personally, I was much more invested and intrigued by Stephanie's recovery than anything having to do with Alain trying to be a better father and failing. Then there's other muddled storylines like hidden cameras in the workplace that only further distract. It's just all too much and at the same time not enough.
Then there's the matter of the romance between Stephanie and Alain. I suppose you could say they are both wounded people trying to gain a greater sense of independence, battling new concepts of self-identity, but I think I'm doing the film too many favors. The sad part is that these two people are extremely shallow and limited form a characterization standpoint. The only defining quality about Stephanie is her injury. Sure she's feisty and can get into bar fights, and that fact that she's attracted to Alain says something about her, but really, her only characterization is her new physical limitations and her adjustment to them. Her physical needs are given much more attention by the screenplay than her emotional resonance. It makes me sound like a hardhearted bastard but I've said it before, I need characters that have more depth to them other than that they suffer. Alain, on the other hand, is even worse. He's a pretty flat character who's actually a really terrible father. He loses his temper easily, chooses quick sex over picking up his kid at school, plus there's the whole abandonment thing. It's hard for me to believe that anything really sinks in with this lunkhead. His relationship with Stephanie, meant to open him up, instead reconfirms what a jerk he is. He uses women as sexual playthings, and treats Stephanie with this same careless abandon. He clearly doesn't see her as anything but a comfortable fling, which he shows through his actions. If Alain's romantic views have changed, the film doesn't show any of this progression. I didn't care about him and I certainly didn't care about the two of them together.
Acting-wise, Cotillard (The Dark Knight Rises) is quite moving throughout as she tries to come to grips with everything that has been taken from her. Her more traditionally dramatic crying scenes are powerful, sure, but it's the quiet moments that Cotillard nails. There's a moment where she goes through her former routines hand motions, and in that moment, set to Katy Perry "Firework," it becomes clear she is moving beyond her accident, accepting and getting stronger. It's a subtle celebration of the human spirit's ability to rebound, and Cotillard makes sure the moment is moving rather than cheesy. Also, there's a very tender moment when she returns to the water park and reunites with the whale that took her legs. Through the glass, she goes through her training motions and the whale still resounds accordingly to her commands. It's a wordless, touching moment that communicates so much, the nature of forgiveness, the culpability of an animal, but really about the connection between man and nature. Also, the fact that these two scenes are available on YouTube means somebody else must have seen them as standouts as well. She's also naked frequently, if that matters to you.
Schoenhaerts (Bullhead) is too opaque for his own good. He seems to settle for his brute physicality, and as such the movie does little to flesh him out further. He has a couple nice moments, especially at the film's climax, but it's too little to overturn the prevailing notion that his character is unworthy of co-lead status.
Probably the most impressive thing from Audiard's film is the special effects to remove Cotillard's legs. While the technology doesn't seem like it has changed since Lt. Dan's days in 1994, it's still a striking image to process. I'm still wondering why exactly Stepheanie gets tattoos on her (remaining) thighs, reading "Right" and "Left." Is she worried about going under the knife and the doctors taking more away from the wrong limb? That seems past the point of return. With the special effects technology, and the film's quotient for sweaty sex scenes, this is the art house equivalent of erotica for those discerning few with amputation fetishes.
When it came time to determine which film would compete at the Academy Awards, France chose the feel-good buddy comedy The Intouchables over Rust and Bone. It's easy to see why. Except for Cotillard's fierce performance, and some spiffy special effects, there is nothing remarkable about this ultimately frustrating and shallow movie. The mismatched love story between Stephanie and Alain feels implausible and too focused on surface-level desires; not enough to justify some statement of personal growth on both their parts. There needed to be a complete restructuring of the screenplay. Too often it keeps switching focus, changing gears, mixing in other subplots until it all feels like one big mess lacking firm direction. I might have loved a movie that focused on Stephanie and her recovery, perhaps even one about Alain, though I doubt it. What Rust and Bone offers is a movie that's persistently in doubt of its own identity, trying its hand at everything, forging necessary care to its lead characters. It's a fine film that could have been a great one, if only it really knew what it wanted to be in the first place.
Nate's Grade: C+
The story is about two people who become connected in each other's lives. Both are experiencing low points and companionship appears to their best solution. Yes, it turns romantic but after completing the story, I am not sure it ended on a happy one. I should probably view this film again to write the review, but usually I don't do that. My gut reaction/opinion is usually pretty strong on a film with one viewing. So, I am not sure what is going on exactly.
I saw this in the theatre as it just opened up in the States. The cinema wasn't too crowded (although had one annoying patron loudly reacting from time to time) to distract me from the story. Reading subtitles was not a problem either, stayed with the story just fine. So, what's the issue?
Perhaps it was the storytelling and they way the director/screenwriter spun the tale that is making it difficult to write my typical review.
Marion Cotillard stars in this film. We have all seen her in a plethora of movies, both French and US , and she was fantastic in Rust and Bone as she always is in everything she touches. She played a far different character than I am accustomed to watching though but that's didn't throw off the film at all. Her skill is flawless in Rust and Bone but this character I could not figure out or know if I understood her completely. Again, I am not sure if it was the way she performed it or the way the story was told on the whole. Maybe I would have liked more of a background on her character - or maybe being left in the dark about the whole character was refreshing.
I do know I didn't care for the male lead, not the acting, but the person he portrayed. Matthias Schoenaerts was great but the character was one I could not empathize with or understand. Yes, he was good looking but he had a few too many faults that I just couldn't get past and couldn't fully grasp the attraction Marion Cotillard's character felt. But therein lies the rub: We can never fully explain why we fall in love with someone, AND no one is perfect; so why can't I just let go and let this fictional couple be? Is it because I am a woman and find the lead male unforgivable with some of his actions; or that I am an American and our sexual proclivities are viewed differently than European's?
See why I am at a loss?
I did enjoy the film; and being in this kind of flux about a story is a treat for me. Watching as many films as I do, sometimes I see a film, write about it and then forget it. Rust and Bone is lingering. That is a good thing even if feeling like I can't fully dissect, delve deep enough or comprehend certain aspects of this film might drive me a little nuts. Thinking about art is ALWAYS a good thing.
My recommendation is to see Rust and Bone, but by all means, do not read summaries of the film like the ones on IMDb or such. Those summaries almost dumb down the meaning or the essence of the story to make it a purely romantic one, and might lead you to believe it is one type of film. It is not - this film portrays a more authentic story with layers juxtaposed within that might make you question its intent. It was a surprise to me so let it be a surprise to you.
One last thing: Pay close attention to the narrator at the very end and what is said.
Review: 7 out of 10
Based on the short story by Craig Davidson. Rust and Bone: Stories
As the film moves on and Cotillard begins to sink her teeth into the role the film shows promise as she is amazing to watch. Her character's trajectory has the potential to compel. A whale trainer who suffers a devastating accident that leaves her without legs, Cotillard's Stephanie must learn to love the life she's now living. She finds that will via her passion toward Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts). His ambivalent compassion is exactly what she needs and he reignites her love for life and helps her accept her new fate.
The problem is with Ali. An aimless father with a five year old son at the beginning of the film, Ali's talent for boxing begins to give his life a purpose. His natural talent for boxing begin to give him the confidence and success he needs. The issue is that "Rust and Bone" throws Ali too many plot points which all become underwritten so it's not enough for you to feel them to be true. Schoenaerts does his best with the role but its a tough balancing act to pull off.
"Rust and Bone" never comes together in an entirely satisfying fashion. It's a shame as "A Prophet", Jacques Audiard's prior effort was one of the strongest films of the past few years. "Rust and Bone" will probably give Cotillard another Academy Award nomination but as a film it just frays.
Rust and Bone is two characters their way through life against all odds. The story here is presented in a realistic manner when we're given one character who's emotionally handicapped and the other being physically handicapped. Both characters are different from each other which is where it shines in strong characterization. The main characters we follow face real problems, they act like real people would while not becoming sentimental nor romantic in execution. We're given events that deals with it themes of independence, love, and dreams. It themes are explore in a mature manner which in other films would have be plague by cliches and sentimentality. The plot is not original by any means and the narrative does have some issues, but it is well written drama that treats it subject matters with maturity.
Matthias Schoenaerts and Marion Cotillard deliver powerhouse performances, but it's Cotillard who I felt the got the most out of her role. Cotillard goes from being an woman who's sorta happy with her life to becoming unable to deals her life after a tragic accident. Cotillard is makes her transformation feels gracefully natural. She's was able to get me engage in her character in some scenes where she didn't have dialogue. Her chemistry with actor Matthias Schoenaerts feels authentic and when both actors share a scene together are some of the film best highlights. Matthias Schoenaerts takes most of the screen time and is equally as powerful. Even though his character doesn't show much emotion to anyone else he's able to have us root for him. Strong acting from its two leads makes the mature story all the more compelling.
Rust and Bone benefits from having two strong leads and telling a familiar story in refreshing manner treating the viewers like adults. It's mature, compelling, and above all a quality drama that also works as terrific character study.
Once you get beyond the rampaging killer whale(this would never have happened if Richard Harris was still alive), hot, sweaty sex and bloody donnybrooks, there is really nothing here that we have not seen before, even with the glimpses into the lives of people living on the margins. While "Rust and Bone" could be said to be about healing(if Jacques Audiard's previous "A Prophet" was about the soul, then maybe this is about the body), it seems like Stephanie and Ali have it relatively easy, as she pleads guilty to the diminished charge of aggravated narcissism while Ali's carelessness could be explained by his never having had to take care of anybody else before and now must consider the repercussions of his actions.(Since no mention is made of Ali and Anna's parents, one could surmise they have been on their own since a very young age.)
While I can think of little of positive substance to say about "Rust and Bone," my only hard complaint is wondering why Stephanie, under the influence of self-pity and painkillers, did call Ali, outside of maybe drunk dialing, since he had previously insulted her by, to be polite, attacking her amateur status. Shortly afterwards, it turns out that he is exactly what she needs and it is the beginning of a beautiful friendship which is more than a little convenient.
Instead, this is really Schoenaerts' story. I have to admit to being a little disappointed by this. Marion Cotillard is one of the most blazingly talented actors alive, and with every appearance she makes, I want to see the juice in the scripts that attract her. On the surface, her Stephanie is just such a role. Going from club girl Sea World trainer to paraplegic feels like an Oscar-worthy choice, but she's really given very little to work with here. There's just a barely sketched in backstory and her eventual transformation is mostly shown on her face. Granted, her work here is still fantastic. The tiniest of gestures speak volumes, but it's strange to say that this is a French film with very little talk, and it comes across just a tad shallow and underwritten. Despite this, Cotillard has one of the most magical moments in film this year when she reunites with the whale who caused her so much suffering. It's so breathtaking, the film is worth seeing for this alone. She also manages to make you empathize for her as she recalls her whale training techniques with a Katy Perry song playing in the the background. Now THAT'S acting!
Schoenaerts initially made his mark in last year's Foreign Film nominee, BULLHEAD. RUST AND BONE should help catapult him to international stardom. He is easily the next Michael Fassbender/Tom Hardy if there ever was one. Bulking up considerably for his role here as a streetfighter, Schoenaerts manages to make this irresponsibly absent Dad, sex pig of a guy pretty sympathetic. You see it in the way he carries a legless Cotillard into the water, or in the sad desperation he exhibits as he forages through a train for food. At the screening I attended, he appeared and was almost completely unrecognizable, having lost all of the weight from the film. He's thin, handsome and obviously ready to replace Daniel Craig as Bond or pull off an X-Men character and become the biggest star to come out of Belgium since Jean Claude Van Damme. Mark my words, this is a future superstar with the deep acting chops to back it up.
Also providing wonderful work is Corinne Masiero as Schoenaerts' sister Anna. A slow burn of a performance, she's wonderfully awkward around her troubled brother until she finally erupts in a terrific and despairing scene. If only the film had given our two leads such a fantastic moment. Armand Verdure as Ali's son Sam is natural and memorable and tears you up a little in a third act surprise.
Technical aspects are well-realized and appropriately naturalistic. Cinematographer, Stephane Fontaine, keeps the camera work urgent and laser focused on his stars. Some of the shallow focus photography is terrific, especially during the moments after Cotillard's accident.
For me, the key to making a better film out of this is in the title. In French, it's DE ROUILLE ET D'OS, which means OF RUST AND BONE. It's an important distinction. Our main characters are equal parts decayed and strong. We could have benefited from digging deeper into what makes up these souls. It's a good, evocative if not especially powerful film. Strangely, by downplaying the obvious melodrama in the story, Audiard has kept this film from being the powerhouse it could have been.
When Cotillard loses both legs in an accident involving killer whales at a theme park, Audiard pulls the same trick but moves the story forward a full three months. The director isn't concerned with examining the effects of the accident on Cotillard, it's just a melodramatic gimmick. By the halfway point she's already been fitted with artificial legs which makes you wonder why he bothered putting her in this situation to begin with.
Before the accident, Cotillard had been driven home from a nightclub brawl by bouncer Schoenarts. Three months later she calls him and they begin a friends with benefits relationship, though Cotillard wants more than friendship and Schoenarts seems to be getting all the benefits. She accompanies him on his travels as a bare-knuckle-boxer, living vicariously through his brutish physicality, and eventually becomes his manager. Schoenarts has a young son who he constantly neglects but we see little of this character. Actually, character is a false description, the child is ultimately just a convenient plot contrivance. This sub-plot was my major problem with the film. Schoenarts is a scoundrel but one we are meant to root for. Having a character shag everything in sight and make a living through dodgy means is one thing but parental neglect is quite another. He's possibly the most unlikable character I've seen on screen all year and when his eventual redemption comes you can't help but feel cheated. It's a pay-off which neither the character nor the film has earned.
Audiard is clearly a film-maker who cares little for character and there's nothing wrong with that. Hitchcock never cared a hoot for character either. The difference is Hitchcock never tried to make a character drama. Cotillard and Schoenarts are both impressive but it's a shame their roles are so superficial. Their director is clearly more interested in choosing the right music to play over his fight scenes and his shallowness can be summed up by how many times his leading man takes a beating but never seems to show any bruises. The only reason the characters are put in these situations is because "amputee whale-trainer" and "bare-knuckle-boxer" sound more dramatic than "receptionist" and "plumber" but, as presented by Audiard, they're really not.
This is a layered drama, but one that follows only two leads, both of whom share a direct connection that is essentially this film's core plot, so I was hardly expecting focus issues going into this film, yet lo and behold, this film's full focus is all but all over the place, spending too much time with one of our two leads until the other is forgotten, largely because Matthias Schoenaerts' Ali character's side of this film's story is rich with subplots that recieve quite a bit of focus, but ultimately prove to be unnecessary. The bridges between the two sides of this film's story don't stretch for, as Roger Daltrey would put it, "miles and miles and miles", but the two focuses that carry this film are distanced just enough to throw you off with focal unevenness, which isn't to say that consistency rests only within this film's focus structure, because pacing is hardly all that smooth, or at least atmospherically. Jacques Audiard's atmosphere isn't all over to place, as the film never really picks up all that much momentum, but there are plenty of points in which the film drags its feet in a more traditionally slow fashion, when there aren't points in which the film really dries up, with quietness and considerable thinness that bland things up something fierce. Needless to say, this film's pacing gets to be at its most problematic when the film just says, "Forget it", and strays away from a traditional narrative style to go into all-out artistic meditativeness, powered with overdrawn sequences of pure nothingness. The moments in which this film slips into this kind of problematic storytelling style are very much few and far between, but they do still stand, being particular heights in story structure dragging that can indeed be found throughout this film, padding out the final product with excess material and repetition, and emphasizing thin spells in story concept just enough to render storytelling somewhat aimless. At a relatively mere two hours, this film well outstays its welcome, and sure, just that can be said about Jacques Audiard's previous, much better film, "A Prophet", but the thing about this film is that there's not quite as much intricate juice to this film's story as the story within "A Prophet", being much more driven by minimalist dramatic depth that could have made for a very good film, yet just ends up undercut by focal and pacing issues, as well as even areas of under-exposition that even things out and cut this film down to its seemingly reasonable runtime, which is, in the long run, too sloppily handled for this film product to be what it could have been. Much really tears at this promising project, though it's not like the final product is ultimately left standing as nothing more than just "rust and bone"... whatever that means, because for every misstep, this film turns in a strength that is considerable enough to sustain your investment, or at least turns in a decent score piece for every bad soundtrack supplement choice.
When Jacques Audiard actually kicks on some tunes, he tends to use mainstream music just as, if not more often than score work, and seeing as how "A Prophet" held a hit-or-miss soundtrack, I expected this film to have a passable song for every hiccup, but what I ended up with was a soundtrack that was anything but hit-or-miss, but instead consistently really bad, to where what may very well be the only song that is extracted from, at the earliest, the '80s is, of all things, "Love Shack" by The B-52's (Yeah, more like the BM-52's), so it's not like this film's musical aspects are all that commendable, but when it comes to original music, courtesy of the great and stupidly busy Alexandre Desplat (Jeez people, give this guy a break), the film delivers, though not quite as much as they say, as Desplat's efforts feel rather underused, and really aren't all that upstanding to begin with, like they got to be in "A Prophet", but still impress with their dynamicity and elegant marriage of classical and modernist sensibilities. The film has its high points when it comes to music, and they're all the works of Desplat, while Stéphane Fontaine gives this film its visual high points, which are also pretty few and far between, and never really reach too high, but are nevertheless commendable in their delivering on striking lighting and fairly pronounced color plays. Visually, the film really isn't as upstanding as I was expecting it would be, being all too often rather average, but not to where you can't appreciate the high points in this film's style, which is in turn not so pronounced that you can't appreciate this film's substance, or at least when it actually works. This film's storytelling is nothing short of messy, thus promising subject matter goes betrayed, but still stands, at least in concept, as unedeniable, with enough promised dramatic value to keep you interested, especially when such promises are, in fact, delivered upon, because as cold as Jacques Audiard's direction all too often is, there are points in which Audiard wakes up and delivers on a bit of liveliness, if not bonafide emotional resonance. The film is moving at times, and while it's not as compelling as it should be, it is reasonably engaging, with the occasional sprinkle of compellingness, made all the sweeter by a pair of onscreen performances that consistently compel, though not entirely on paper. There's not too much for our leads to work with, but when the handsome Matthias Schoenaerts and lovely Marion Cotillard find dramatic material, they deliver on pretty powerful emotional range to break up consistent charisma, augmented by effective chemistry. Our leads aren't as enthralling as I was hoping they would be, but they are more compelling that the film itself, because with all of its high points, this film still underwhelms, which is shame, because this film really could have been more, which isn't to say that it's not enjoyable, because what is, in fact, done right is easy to appreciate as enough to keep you invested in the final product as, if nothing else, decent.
Overall, unevenness in character focus is as considerable as unevenness in pacing, which goes from steady to dry much too awkwardly much too often, but at least keeps consistent enough in slowness to exacerbate the sting of the aimless padding that helps in making the final product an unassured and underwhelming effort, but one that still gets you by, delivering on decent score work and cinematography, as well as a worthy story that is carried by high points in Jacques Audiard's direction, and the charismas, moments of emotional power, and chemistry between leads Matthias Schoenaerts and Marion Cotillard, both of whom stand as key reasons why "Rust and Bone" is a decent drama with its share of entertaining spots, and even the occasional strong spot, regardless of the betrayals of full potential.
2.5/5 - Fair