Sunday, January 6, 2013

Rust and Bone (orig. De rouille et d'os)

MPAA (R)  AV Club (B+) Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
Michael Phillips' review
The Onion/AV Club's review

Rust and Bone (orig. De rouille et d'os) [2012] (directed and cowritten by Jacques Audiard along with Thomas Bidegain, story by Craig Davidson) is a French language film (English subtitled) that's received a fair amount of Oscar nomination "buzz" because it stars the French actress Marion Cotilard who has scored some fairly significant roles in Hollywood over the past several years (Inception [2010] and Dark Knight Rises [2012] come to mind).  Here she plays the lead role in her native language.

The film is intended to be about two "regular young people."  There's Stéphanie (played by Marion Cotilard) who begins the film a "Killer Whale" (or Orca) trainer at a "Sea World" kind of theme park in Southern France.  As such, one would assume that she had some sort of college degree, probably in marine biology.  And there is Alein (played by Matthias Schoenaerts) a more working class / blue collar "bloke," who at the beginning of the film moves down to Southern France from "the North" (presumably Paris) with his 8-10 year old son to stay with his sister Louise (played by Céline Sallette) after the break-up of his marriage/relationship with his son's mother.

Not having many skills, Alein first lands a job as a bouncer at a local club.  It is there that he and Stéphanie first meet.  She had gone there to dance/scope guys and had gotten into some trouble with a rude patron or two.  Alein, the new bouncer comes to her rescue.  The two talk briefly afterwards.  It's clear afterwards that neither was particularly impressed with the other at that first encounter.  Alein, taking a look at Stéphanie thinks her to be something of a tramp who more or less got herself into trouble (and more or less tells her so...).  Stéphanie, rolling her eyes, thought Alien to be a "more muscles than brains" loser who was working as a bouncer at the bar because, well, he couldn't find much else for work...

Such it would remain, and there would not be much of a story following if ... Stéphanie did not have a horrible accident at work.  Mind you, she worked with Orcas (Killer Whales) ... So, as has actually happened (thankfully only rarely...) one of the Orcas/Killer Whales got a bit too aggresive with the trainers during a show and knocked Stéphanie along with a fair amount of gear that was around her into the tank with it.  Whether or not she was initially injured by the gear flying into the water along with her or whether the Orca simply attacked her, the result was that she woke-up some time after the accident in the hospital, only to find to her horror that she had lost both of her legs up to the knees.

The story unspools from there...  Stéphanie, depressed and largely alone finds that she could actually use the help of a man who was relatively strong with previously relatively simple tasks but now much more difficult without her legs.  By a happy fluke, she actually kept the Alein's number which he had given her when they first met in that bar.  Before she probably would have never thought to use it.  Buy now it proved rather handy.

For his part, Alein who still seems to see Stéphanie in a largely objectified manner (as "a chick" if now a somewhat more interesting "chick without legs") still has to come to see her as more than that.  Eventually, as the limitations of his own life come crashing around him as well -- he really was probably "more muscles than brains" and finds himself in a job which only gets his sister, the one who was helping him with his son, fired from hers ... --  he, of course, does ...

I think that I and readers here would get the point of the film and the film is largely well done.  I suppose the truly odd parts of the story is Stéphanie's initial work as a "Orca/Killer Whale trainer" and then her rather rare kind of accident.  The film would have worked better for me if she had just had a random car accident or something more "relatable" like that.

Still none of us is perfect or "an island."  And the people who surround us, who we may initially find "annoying," "problematic" or even "beneath us," can become more important in our lives (and positively so) than we first expected.  And that's a rather nice message!

Finally, parents, while I doubt that most would be particularly keen on taking a minor to a subtitled film anyway, please be warned that the R is appropriate.  There is some romance/nudity in it that minors need not have to see.  But as a young adult film and above, I do believe that it tells a basically very nice story.

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