Notable Cast: Stephen Spinella, Jack Plotnick
Review: If there’s one movie about a tire named Robert with telekinesis you see this year…make it Rubber. This is nothing more than an exercise in the strange, a voyage into the weird, and an adventure into the expression “what the fuck.” Having all the elements of a total art house flick, Rubber strives to be nothing but different. The whole point of the film, outlined in the opening monologue by our lead cop character (Spinella) talking directly to the audience, informs us Rubber makes ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE. Unlike a normal film, Rubber actually wants you to sit there scratching your head, while you wonder to yourself why anything is happening at all. Why does the tire have a name? Why does it love destroying things? What gave it life in the first place? Why is there an actual audience watching from a distance with binoculars? If you try to understand Rubber, there’s a 90% chance your head will explode and you will shut the film off in a matter of minutes. In no way is this a movie for the masses. I’ll be the first to say the general public will write Rubber off as garbage for not being able to relate to a single aspect. Most will find it, well, plain out weird. So of course I’m sitting there hysterically laughing as a freakin’ tire rolls around the desert. Rubber not only intrigued me, but was a brilliant farce on the idea that nothing, at all, happens for a reason. Movies are movies, separate from reality, and that’s all Rubber instills in you.
Rubber starts out in the desert, as Lieutenant Chad (Spinella) climbs out of the back of a car. He walks up to the camera, and dives into a dialogue that in movies, there’s never any reason for actions. “Why is ET brown? Why do some people like sausages, and other people don’t? No fuckin’ reason, that’s why” Chad explains. After Chad leaves, we meet a group of people given binoculars by a man known as Accountant (Plotnick), who appear to be an audience for the movie taking place. Cue a lonely looking junkyard tire half covered in sand. The tire (Robert) suddenly gets up, only to fall down. After a few attempts, Robert learns how to roll, and encounters a plastic bottle. After pushing at it as a cat would paw at a toy, Robert runs it over. I can only assume he is delighted, because Robert starts crushing everything he can. But then he encounters his next challenge, a glass bottle. He can’t crush it, so Robert becomes enraged. And what does Robert find to his surprise? He has telekinetic powers that can explode anything he chooses. Just ask the bunny he rolls up to. So ensues a murderous rampage by the killer tire Robert, which includes a ton of exploding heads and tons of rolling rubber.
If not for the brilliant set up of one of the most effective monologues in recent memory, Rubber would have been lost. Stephen Spinella brings to light the fact that we all just accept what happens in movies without question. But more importantly, it lets something like a killer tire seem less farfetched. By getting us in the blank mindset, we are prepared to witness something unique and strange while at the same time rationalizing it. Simply throwing us into a film where a tire gets up and starts moving around would have been disastrous to the tone of the film. Credit Dupieux for finding a way to ground such a demented idea, understanding exactly how to convey his message without losing the audience (well, as much of the audience as possible) with absurdity.
What surprised me about Rubber was the utter complexity that existed in such a strange world. Every part of the film was represented in the film itself in some aspect, but they all coexist on-screen. The audience (us) is represented by the group of binocular toting viewers placed in the desert to watch Robert. Dupieux has them react to the film as any audience would, asking questions, bothering one another, but most importantly trying to analyze the “film” and its meaning. The movie and its actors are represented by the film we ourselves are watching about Robert. But the players are self-aware. Well, at least Chad is. It appears that Chad can differentiate between the real world and the supposed “fake” world of Robert. Basically, as Chad explains, as long as people are watching (the audience) the events are real, but as soon as everyone stops watching, everyone goes back to some mundane existence: like a real movie. Rubber takes the whole “film within a film” aspect to a puzzling level, but unlike anyone has ever tried to before. The lines are constantly blurred between show and reality, because Robert, the biggest example of “no reason,” never stops.
Rubber is one of the craziest, mind-boggling, but most ambitious films I’ve ever seen. It takes the idea of creating something so wildly bizarre for no reason, but then gives it exactly that: a reason. By exclaiming Rubber is purely made to showcase the belief that films have no reasoning, you’ve given meaning to the insane. Yes, it is possible to make a film about a murderous tire and make it more entertaining than just the silly surface concept. Why I was crying laughing watching a tire struggle to stay upright as he feebly rolled around the sand? Because I can honestly say, in Rubber, there was no inclination of what could possibly happen next. What could be going through the mind of a tire?! I mean, if they have minds, or some rubber neurotic system…but exactly that reason is the glory of Rubber. Robert was going to do anything, and there was going to be no reasoning behind it. Rubber works on so many more levels than just some B-grade slasher with zero intelligence, turning into a commentary on films in general. Rubber could have as entertaining as a tire fire, but instead turned into quite the profound spectacle. It’s amazing what a little tire named Robert with some telekinetic powers can accomplish…
Final Rating: 8.5 out of 10….for no reason