[Review] – Rust And Bone

8 Dec

Rust And Bone

Title: Rust and Bone
Year: 2012
Director: Jacques Audiard
Writers: Jacques Audiard and Thomas Bidegain, based on the short story by Craig Davidson
Starring: Marion Cotillard, Matthias Schoenaerts
MPAA Rating: R, strong sexual content, brief graphic nudity, some violence and language
Runtime: 120 min
IMDb Rating: 7.6
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Metacritic: 72

Rust and Bone is a film that’s made as good as it is thanks to three of the biggest names to have come out of the European film scene in the last half a decade or so. You have the lovely French Marion Cotillard, the biggest name out of the three of course as she’s transcended into Hollywood as well, who of course won the Oscar for her absolutely masterful turn as Édith Piaf in 2007’s La Vie en Rose. Then you have Matthias Schoenaerts, the Belgian actor who was terrific in Bullhead, Belgium’s Academy Award nominated film from last year, an actor who’s talents are just bound to translate to Hollywood, too. And they’re directed here by Jacques Audiard, the French filmmaker who rose to prominence after his 2009 film, A Prophet, got nominated for an Oscar.

So my expectations for this one were rather high, seeing how it was made in tandem by three people who I think are pretty damn talented as because word from Cannes, where it screened this year, was pretty good. Good thing that I wasn’t disappointed, then, as Rust and Bone really is a tremendously accomplished piece of filmmaking. Credit to those three names for making it such, to Ms. Cotillard and Mr. Schoenaerts for being so fearless in their acting and to Mr. Audiard for knowing exactly how to avoid the pitfalls this story could have so easily fallen victim to.

That story is that of Ali, Mr. Schoenaerts’ young and unemployed man who suddenly finds himself as the sole guardian to this five-year-old son. He actually gets a job as a bouncer in a nightclub and things start to look up for him and his son, then one day, after breaking up a fight at his place of employ, he meets the gorgeous Stéphanie, Ms. Cotillard’s character, whom he escorts safely back to her place and slips her his number, even though knowing chances are a girl like her wouldn’t take notice on a guy like him.

She’s actually a killer whale trainer at a water park and wakes up one day at the hospital after a horrible accident and finds both her legs had been amputated. So then she actually gives him a call and it’s all about the relationship that starts developing between the two, how Ali’s love for life gets Stéphanie willing to live hers again. It’s about shedding the shame away and embracing the pleasures of life, it has a deeply powerful narrative and just a brilliant emotional momentum that has its most amazing moment to the sound of Katy Perry‘s ‘Fireworks’ (not ironically, though; it really, really works).

This film is so much more than it seems at first, and as it starts shedding off layers you only get more and more immersed in it. If I told you it was about a girl who worked on a water park and a down-on-his-luck single dad you’d think it was one thing. If I told you the girl loses her legs and the guy’s a kick-boxer your perception would likely change. If I told you it was emotionally intense, violent, sexy, full of stunning acting and American dance-pop your head would veer off into another direction. That kind of abstraction is what Mr. Audiard is aiming for here, I think, to have his film be so much at once.

So, really, with that being said, I guess it’s kind of dumb for me to really try and articulate what Rust and Bone is really about and why exactly you should go see it. All I know is that you really, really should go see it. Just seeing Ali and Stéphanie interact is worth it, they don’t have the typical courtship, not even when she had her legs. When she’s lost her legs and confesses to him that she hasn’t had sex since the accident and he casually asks her if she wants to fuck it really seems like he’s offering because he has nothing to do and wouldn’t mind doing her a solid.

Marion Cotillard really is a great, great actress who deserves every good thing that’s been said about her, and if there’s Oscar buzz surrounding her performance here it’s because she deserves every last bit of it. Seeing how she interprets Stéphanie’s change of life after the accident is amazing, from being a rather spoiled woman, the kind who just loves all the sexual attention she gets from every man she meets to now having no legs, and none of that attention, and having really to develop this entire new relationship with her own body. She’s brilliant here.

As is Mr. Schoenaerts even if his role isn’t quite as flashy. Other than Joaquin Phoenix‘s best-of-the-year turn in The Master, Mr. Schoenaerts’ performance is the most animalistic of 2012, the most physical, and he used all of that to great effect, reminding me more than a bit of how actors like Tom Hardy have used their bodies to the same effect. That effect carries a rawness, a vulnerability that serves this performance which is so absolutely absent of any kind of vain actor self-conciousness. He’s amazing here.

We can talk about how Ali’s straightforwardness and brutal physicality and what he does with it are what gets Stéphanie to stop being ashamed of herself and get in contact with her own body. We could talk about other things you got from Rust and Bone, but this movie is as good as it is (and it’s really good) because there’s no clear message, because it defies a summary, because it’s a movie that has to be experienced for you to understand the true power it holds. This is the 700th review I’ve written since I started doing this in 2010, and I always love it when my silly little milestones are marked with great films.

Grade: A-

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