Heavy Meta: “Rubber”

April 25, 2011

Okay, if I told you Rubber was a movie about a killer tire, you’d probably say to me, “What are you doing in my living room!” or “Don’t drink my beer!” and “Did you feed my dog ho-hos?” But after that you’d likely respond, “Is this movie a joke?” Well, I’m here to tell you that, yeah, it’s a joke. Rubber is one gigantic deconstruction of horror movies that cuts so deep and mercilessly it makes Scream 4 look like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Anyone who takes Rubber seriously really needs to add something to their diet besides paint-chips.

You want the plot of Rubber? Okay, here goes: a suddenly-sentient car tire discovers it has the ability to psychokinetically kill things and people, and it sets out to, um, well roll around. It falls in love with a comely drifter (Roxane Mesquida), watches her in the shower, and generally kills anyone who looks at it sideways. In the meantime some fairly-inept cops try and stop it (in fairness, even competent cops would probably be flummoxed by a murderous tire).

Yet as all this is happening, an “audience” of spectators watch the action unfold from a hillside through binoculars. Their function goes way past Greek chorus, to actual audience stand-ins as they gripe that the action is flagging, or that the chick’s ass isn’t that great (but she’s got “a good rack” one of them opines), and basically watch the film’s events unfold in real time.

It all gets fuzzier as the lead, Lieutenant Chad (Stephen Spinella), and a schlubby middle-manager-type referred to in the credits as “Accountant” (no, not William Fichtner—that would be all kinds of awesome!—but Jason Plotnik), perhaps sensing what a crappy story they’re playing out, poison the “audience” and set themselves free. However, just as Lieutenant Chad explains to his fellow cops that they can all go home now, as there is no more audience (he even has a fellow cop shoot him a few times to prove they’re just play-acting), they discover one audience member (Wings Hauser) didn’t eat the food.  Even with an audience of one, the show must go on.

Writer/Director Quentin Dupieux (not a filmmaker by trade, but a music producer) lays out his movie’s existential emptiness in the first scene as Lieutenant Chad climbs out of a car’s trunk and address the “audience” (and the audience), positing that movies are full of things happen for no reason at all. “Why is the creature in E.T. brown? No reason…in Polanski’s The Piano, why does the guy have to live like  a bum, when he can play the piano so beautifully? No reason…” (I forget the whole quote). But it’s a pretty obvious game of sleight-of-hand, since all of his examples actually have concrete logical reasons behind them.

Dupieux flirts with a lot of ideas in this movie—from notion of movies as a purgatory in which the actors are doomed to play pre-ordained roles for an omnipresent audience, to the way that logical reasonings in movies—like the larger world beyond what is shown on  the artifice of a movie set—are basically unseen when they don’t factor into the story. But Dupieux doesn’t seem interested in following any of these ideas as much as tossing them out there and then short-circuiting them (the tire kills the surviving audience member, but the story goes on, anyway). In the end, Dupieux is more interested in destroying than creating.

Dupieux also revels in giving us nothing to enjoy in this movie. The acting ranges from the okay (Spinella) to the awful (Mesquida). The location is a run-down motel in a barren desert. And the action—such as it is—could have been stolen from an Adult Swim live-action show. So, I guess the final joke is on the audience. After all, whatever Dupieux is or isn’t trying to say, we watched this movie. I guess he wins.

Oh, wait. The chick gets naked. And I, for one, have no complaints about her ass.


  1. I’m gonna have to see this one. Sounds interesting, even if it’s not all that good.

    • That’s an accurate description: Interesting, but not that good.

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