I had heard a lot about RUBBER prior to seeing it. I explained it to friends, who scoffed at the bizarre premise with mild to little interest, but to me, I simply had to see this film. I don’t know if it was the high expectations or what, but while I can acknowledge that there’s a lot going on with RUBBER that I liked, it is not the perfectly awesome film a lot of folks are squawking about.
I have to give it to filmmaker Quentin Dupieux. Starting out RUBBER the way he does and rolling with that theme throughout the film is a ballsy and fun move that for some reason reminded me of ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES, though I haven’t seen that film in ages (Note to self: seek out ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES for review.). It too had an inanimate object going on a killing spree and while this film takes things to a SCANNERS-like extreme rather than simply pummeling the actors with tomatoes, the ludicrousness remains.
Yes, this is a film about a tire that goes on a killing spree by telekinetically exploding people’s heads and falling in love with a cute French girl. But it’s also a fun dissection of film and an exploration of the age old term, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one’s around, does it make a sound?” It’s a pretty fun dissection of movie theater audiences as a whole, for that matter. From the get go, in a crazy opening sequence focusing on a set of chairs standing on a desert road, you know you’re in for an unconventional film. As a sheriff drives his car through a maze of chairs, knocking each over one by one, I couldn’t help but giggle at how absurd it was. Even during the monologue given by the sheriff, I was somehow entranced at the subject matter, “Every film has that moment where something happens for no reason other than to make the film have a story.” It’s a concept of story that is often used but never really explored. Dupieux tries to explore this theme here and does so in a somewhat successful manner, but as the story goes on, the concept gets rather tedious. Dupieux tries to have it both ways; making the movie work by itself and having a running commentary on how story works by casting a real audience watching the story and commenting on it throughout. A fun concept, especially with Wings Hauser present for added star power, kind of like cutting out the middle man and going right to the MST3K route from the get go or having the MUPPETS’ Statler and Waldorf give a running play by play for the whole film. But it’s an idea that kind of wears out its welcome by the halfway point. Though when your star is a circular piece of rubber, I guess something is needed for added comedic depth.
In the end, for me, I think RUBBER would have been a better short film. The repetition and slow progression of our hero tire’s quest got pretty monotonous after about an hour. Sure there were some really great scenes; the part where the tire sees his wheely brethren being tossed into a fire at a junkyard was pretty well done and yes it’s cool to see heads get all ‘splody. But I felt the filmmaker had to resort to the same tricks a few times too many and though the tire’s slow rolling journey was intrinsic to what it was, had the film picked up the pace and burned rubber on occasion, I think it would have been a more enjoyable film. There will be those that think RUBBER is a pretentious film which, in the first reel, the filmmakers explain away any responsibility they might have as a storyteller. I can see that. Explaining that some things just don’t make sense from the get-go is a bit of a cop out, but for me, it also adds to the offbeat charm of RUBBER. I’m of two minds about RUBBER. The part of me that loves the offbeat has to give it props, but my more sensible side realizes that by the end of the film, the tire’s tread had become well worn.