Monday, March 5, 2012

Rubber: A Review

Okay, so, I heard about this movie on Twitter a while back, and from the description alone I wanted to watch it. Killer tire fucks with people sounds exactly like my type of movie, you know? Anyway, reading the Netflix description did not dissuade me.

"Quentin Dupieux directs this inventive twist on low-rent revenge flicks, which follows a car tire named Robert that rolls through the desert Southwest using its strange psychic powers to blow up birds, bunnies, human beings and more. But when Robert spies a gorgeous woman motoring down the highway, he decides to follow her and take a chance on love. This gleefully over-the-top black comedy stars Stephen Spinella and Roxanne Mesquida."

I think it goes without saying that I was really looking forward to watching this.

I was staggeringly disappointed.

Look, I know, it's a film about a tire that kills people, so it's not like I expected it to be high art or something. But the thing is, this film doesn't start for 9 minutes. Nine. In a film that is only 82 minutes long, that's pretty unforgiveable.

Oh sure, there's stuff going on, but it's not the film. There's some desert scenery shots- that's not too bad as the film is set in the desert. Then there's a car driving down this road. A dude is standing there, holding a million binoculars, and there are chairs randomly set up in the road. The car hits every chair, a cop gets out of the trunk, and gives a good long speech. The speech in and of itself is unimportant, because the point of the speech is to address the in-film audience (and me) that the shit happening in this film happens for no reason, and to just go with it.

I am voluntarily watching a TIRE REVENGE FILM. This is not a concept I have trouble grasping.

Then the in-film audience starts 'watching the film' through the binoculars, and we get to the problem with the film that poisoned the whole well for me. They comment on the film as it's happening, pointing out the problems with it. "It's kinda slow." "Well, it's just the beginning." This happens all over the place. They'll cut back to this in-film audience so they can break down the scene for you. And then some of the other people in the in film audience would be like "SHUT UP" (because it's funny because that's what you want!) and then after far too long spent with this mindless bullshit that's supposed to be clever, we get back to the tire.

We have established that I like meta humor. I have done a podcast on this, so this is not me hating on meta humor at all. But there are types of meta humor. There is what one might call the 'straight' meta humor, where the discussion of tropes as they exist is treated as a reality of that film. This is what happens in Behind the Mask, horror tropes are met head on as if they were something that was possible and existed, and how you would go about actually achieving them. This is more common in comedies that feature meta, but the theory is the same.

Then there is meta humor that occurs when one discusses other films. In the Scream universe, obviously most horror films exist that exist in real life, and they discuss those tropes as tropes while said tropes actually take place. When Sidney's character remarks about women who run upstairs when they should be running outside, and then she can't get the chain off the door and so has to run upstairs, we know why she does and that she knows better.

The meta humor in this film is some of my least favorite ever. It comments on the movie as it happens, largely to point out the flaws as the film goes along, or to provide exposition. In small doses, I find this acceptable, though not particularly clever. In Rubber, it's abusively stupid. "Hee hee hee it's funny because we know it's bad and we're going to tell you it's bad and then have another character tell us to shut up because we know you want us to shut up and then some of you can relate to someone in our in film audience" is aggressively annoying to me, and it just grated on my nerves the whole movie. I couldn't get past it enough to truly like the parts of the film that I actually enjoyed, which was basically everything starring the tire.

Yes, the tire is more entertaining than nearly every human in this movie. For those of you going "Well, that's the point! You see, it's funny, because you relate to the tire! And a character points that out! It's funny because half of this film annoys you! That's the point!" I'm just gonna stop you here. I don't watch films to be annoyed by them. (Well, okay, sometimes I do because I watch films to criticize them but most people watch films for enjoyment.) But if I sat next to you and poked you with a sharp stick over and over for twenty minutes shouting SEE IT'S FUNNY BECAUSE I'M ANNOYING YOU AND I KNOW IT then you would have every right to punch me in the face for being an asshole.

Basically, half of this film is the director being an asshole to the audience, and although I enjoyed some other parts of the film, I didn't enjoy them enough to get over the director ramming his elbow in my ribs going GET IT GET IT THIS SHIT IS FUNNY!

I am well aware that other people find this type of humor funny, and I'm sure if you do then you would enjoy this film immensely.


  1. How disappointing. I was curious to watch this film too, but I don't think I would enjoy it too much based on what you are saying.

    1. Yeah it actually really bummed me. I kinda feel like if there was a fan cut of just the tire bits that would be worth catching because I do feel like those bits were really well done- the tire has some kind of existential crisis in the middle- but the rest just blargh.