Saturday, December 1, 2012

Rust and Bone review

I find there's often a common misconception when it comes to the melodrama, at least with my generation. Back in classic Hollywood times, melodramas = dramas, basically. There were a lot of great ones too. With the melodrama, ultimately, only one thing matters: the performances. Much like a good stage show, if the acting is supbar then it's a worthless experiment. It could be a gorgeous looking film, but if the performances don't match up, it ruins it. Melodramas are a tricky thing to get right and it takes a great filmmaker to make a great melodrama. French filmmaker Jacques Audiard is a great filmmaker. "The Beat My Heart Skipped" signaled that, then "A Prophet" cemented it. So where does Rust and Bone fit?

That wasn't a rhetorical question, the answer is basically the middle. Not as amazing as "A Prophet" but definitely worth your money, Rust and Bone is a good melodrama with two great performances and an engrossing story. What Audiard does that's interesting is the raw element that he adds to his films that gives things a more "real world" flavor. Whether it's the handheld camera-work, the minimal use of lighting, or simply-crafted story---Audiard adds just enough touches here and there to pull you in and then lets his actors' performances do the rest of the talking.

The film starts off with Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) who's left with his five-year old son. He travels to South France to live with his sister as she helps him find work. Ali doesn't exactly know what he's doing when it comes to raising his son Sam and kind of expects his sister to do the majority of the work.

One of the first jobs he gets is as a bouncer. It's here where we meet Stephanie (Marion Cotillard). Stephanie just got into a bad mixup at the club and Ali offers to take her home. When he takes her home, we learn that she trains killer whales. Ali leaves her his number before he leaves, in case she needs anything.

From there, the story takes quite a turn. Stephanie gets into a terrible accident at her job and eventually she meets up again with Ali. Ali's a great character in that he's simply a doer. He has no time to think about the consequences of his actions, he just does what he feels like doing. This can often have undesirable effects, but it's this mentality that helps bring Stephanie out of her funk. Because of him, she's able to find some joy in her life again and they develop quite an interesting bond that could wind up being something more.

Rust and Bone has many elements of a romantic drama as well as the melodrama, as hinted above, and overall, things blend quite nicely. The only unfortunate thing with this film is that we don't really get enough time to really breathe with these characters. Too often, it cuts back and forth between Ali and Stephanie and it's only really when the two are together that the film is at its best. Schoenaerts and Cotillard are great matches and have good chemistry. Cotillard in particular gives a beautiful and affecting performance which, with any lesser actress, could be the deciding factor on whether or not the movie is good.

When it's not just about the two of them, the movie can sometimes threaten to fall off the rails as we're introduced to different plot points here and there that just don't quite mesh well altogether. That said, it all eventually leads to an ending that is actually very well-done so the trip was well worth it.

Not quite a stroke of genius in the way "A Prophet" was, but Rust and Bone is great talent showcase for nearly everyone involved.  With a couple of little kinks here and there it could've been even better, but what we're left with, is still pretty damn good.

Grade: B+

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