Posted September 4, 2012 by David Watson in Films
 
 

Rust And Bone


 

Fresh
from wowing audiences at Cannes and winning Best Film at this year’s London
Film Festival
, A Prophet director Jacques
Audiard
’s latest film, Rust And Bone,
is a curiously unsatisfying mash-up of the sublime short stories of Canadian
author Craig Davidson. Liberally adapting and colliding
Davidson’s Rocket Ride and the
titular Rust And Bone, Audiard has
fashioned a ramshackle, episodic romance which hits just more than it misses.

 

Homeless, down-on-his-luck fighter
Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) migrates
from Belgium to the Cote D’Azur with his estranged young son where he sets up
home in his sister’s garage and soon finds work as a bouncer in a local
club. Breaking up a fight one
night he meets the mercurial Stephanie (Marion
Cotillard
) and gives her his number.
When Stephanie, a killer whale trainer at the local Marineland, is left a
double leg amputee after a tragic accident, she finds herself turning to Ali
for support. The two are drawn to
each other, form a tentative friendship, Ali reawakening in Stephanie an
appetite and appreciation for life, forcing her to come to terms with her
disabilities. She in turn comes to
manage him in the underground bare-knuckle bouts he fights. But when sex and the possibility of
real love threaten, are either of these damaged individuals ready for it?

 

Melodramatic, obvious and
sentimental, Rust And Bone, like
it’s predecessor, the vastly overrated A
Prophet,
is curiously uninvolving despite being punctuated by moments of
poetic beauty and featuring a magnetic performance from Matthias Schoenaerts as
the almost Neanderthal streetfighter Ali and a possible career best from
Cotillard as the beautiful, brittle, wounded Stephanie. The scene where, after her first
post-accident sexual encounter, a reinvigorated but wheelchair-bound Stephanie
goes through her former Marineland dance routine alone on a rooftop accompanied
by Katy Perry’s Firework is
fantastic; a beautiful, life-affirming, joyous moment. But it’s also a bit cheesy, a bit heavy-handed. And there lies one of the film’s most
glaring problems; like Ali, it lumbers when it should dance, an emotional
juggernaut determined to make you feel.

 

The script by Audiard and Thomas Bidegain lacks the subtlety of
Davidson’s writing, it’s bruised humanity, it’s melancholy, it’s steel. Often compared to Chuck Palahniuk, Davidson writes about lives lived on the margins
of society, his often brutal stories populated by broken boxers, dog fighters,
sex addicts, gamblers, drunks, bad parents, injured children. He tells tales of love, of loss, of
regret, of wasted lives and missed opportunities, of the siren song of
self-destruction. His characters
aren’t always likable but they’re sympathetic and real. By comparison, despite the committed
performances of Cotillard and Schoenaerts, Audiard and Bidegain’s characters
feel a little shallow, a little surface.
They lack the depth of their literary counterparts. Cotillard’s Stephanie may have had her
legs bitten off by a whale but the film seems to suggest none of her problems
are so bad they can’t be sorted out by a damn good seeing to. Ali may be a violent thug and a shitty
father but all he needs to straighten up is a near-tragic accident and an
impossible shot at the title. They
don’t convince as people and so their romance never really rings true. It’s a sentimental, melodramatic
exercise in predictability. The
film feels contrived, aimless, unfocused.

 

Audiard’s Rust And Bone never truly explores, or even addresses, the fascinating
allure of violence, the doomy inevitability of self-destruction or the
masochistic desire for punishment that permeates Davidson’s writing. There’s a couple of perfunctory,
scrappy, bare-knuckle bouts in car parks but no real sense of anything being at
stake; these are not the life or death contests, the human cockfights, they
should be but are more like a Friday night punch-up down the kebab shop with
even less at risk. The short
story’s ending has been drastically reimagined to provide a manipulative,
feel-good, redemptive climax to the film, one full of hope, that feels tacked
on and worst of all, like a betrayal of the characters.

 

Flabby and disappointing, Rust And Bone underwhelms when it
should overpower.

 


David Watson

 
David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email: david.watson@filmjuice.com