Rust and Bone

I am not a Marion Cotillard fan. There are many French women I love—the Isabelles (Huppert and Adjani), Audrey Tatou, Kristin Scott-Thomas—and Ms. Cotillard is not among them. I mostly don’t notice her (Big Fish, A Very Long Engagement) or register a “meh” (Inception, The Dark Knight Rises). I found La Vie En Rose pretty repugnant, though, and that’s the only movie I’ve seen that was basically a vehicle for her talents.

It didn’t keep me from watching Rust and Bone, however, an unusual French love story by Jacques Audiard about a tough guy pugilist named Alain (Matthias Schoenaerts) who has rescued/smuggled/kidnapped his son from an apparently abusive mother (who used him as a drug mule, maybe) and then promptly ignores, abuses or pawns him off on his sister while scrabbling for work in Antibes (which is just north of Cannes).

While bouncing in a club, he rescues marine biologist/leggy club tease Stephanie from some altercation where, I guess, someone didn’t appreciate her teasing. He takes her home and proceeds to humiliate her beta boyfriend, which seems to be something she does pretty regularly as well.

And scene.

Alain and Stephanie part, never to meet again.

No, of course not. What happens is Stephanie’s legs are eaten by a killer whale.

Occupational hazard for a marine biologist.

It’s never really explained why Stephanie thinks “I’ll call that club bouncer” nor why Alain responds to the call. But there’s your picture.

It’s not bad. They’re not very likable characters. They’re French. It’s very French, down to a plot point revolving around employers not having the right to surveil employees who may be stealing things.

It has a lot of thematic similarities to The Intouchables though I don’t think it’s in the same league. It also reminded me a bit of Raging Bull, in the sense that the lead character was a moron whose stupidity and self-destructiveness led to negative consequences in his life.

It’s a pretty fast two hours, and I would say it’s a good movie. The Boy liked it okay (though he was puzzled about why it would be against the law to monitor your employees). I’ve noticed quite a few people are wild about (it lost the Golden Globe, along with Intouchables and A Royal Affair, to Haeneke’s Amour) but I had a few problems with the character arc that kept me from buying the ending.

I give Cotillard a pass on this one. She has a nice body, even legless, and you see a lot of it. (It’s pretty sexually graphic.) Schoenaerts is believable enough.

I wouldn’t recommend it enthusiastically, I guess because I had a problem with the implicit message of the film. This is one of those movies where you wouldn’t really want to try to figure out any message because it’s all so peculiar. But the character dynamics were so odd that it didn’t sit right with me. It seemed to me like French society is pretty dysfunctional, these were pretty dysfunctional people, and none of that really had any chance of being fixed, however happily the end is spun.

But maybe I’m just grumpy.

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