Sunday, December 16, 2012

Movie with Abe: Rust and Bone

Rust and Bone
Directed by Jacques Audiard
Released November 23, 2012

Marion Cotillard has been working in film for a while, and, after a few appearances in American films such as “Big Fish” and “A Good Year,” made her mark with an Oscar-winning performance in “La Vie en Rose” as Edith Piaf. Since then, she has commanded major American roles, in films like “Inception,” “The Dark Knight Rises,” and “Nine.” Director Jacques Audiard, a well-respected French filmmaker, is known in France for his talents but only recently made himself the talk of American film enthusiasts with the Oscar-nominated “A Prophet.” This highly wrenching and emotional film brings together these two talents for a formidable if overly devastating collaboration.

Cotillard, who plays killer whale trailer Stéphanie, doesn’t even appear in the film for its first few scenes. The story begins with Alain (Matthias Schoenaerts), a Belgian father with a young son who travels to his sister’s home in search of work and a way to provide for his child. Alain is hardly a motivational father figure, lacking the sensitivity required to speak to children and easily and detrimentally distracted by attractive women. It’s no surprise, therefore, that a run-in at a club with the equally troublesome Stéphanie forcibly inserts them into each other’s lives, shortly before Stéphanie is struck by tragedy as a result of a horrific work accident.

“Rust and Bone” has no clear, specific focus, switching back intermittently from in-depth spotlights on Alain and Stephanie in their individual lives, both struggling to return to some sense of normalcy following the cruel paths life has set for them. Neither has a positive attitude, and their interactions are far from sentimental. Schoenaerts’ performance is appropriately detached, presenting Alain as someone not wholly concerned with where his life is headed, and certainly not for his own sake. Cotillard delivers her finest turn since “La Vie en Rose,” indicating such pain and inspiration in Stéphanie’s eyes and capturing the spirit of her character in every scene.

As a film, “Rust and Bone” takes many rollercoaster turns, allowing its audience few moments of true peace and serenity. When it does afford such a rare flicker of joy, it succeeds enormously, best illustrated on the film’s poster, where Stéphanie holds on to Alain’s shoulders as they both go for a swim in the sparkling ocean. “Rust and Bone” is filled with misery, with moments of hope sprinkled in only occasionally. The weight of the sadness contained within is difficult to bear, but, overall, “Rust and Bone” serves as an effective and emotional character study with one truly strong performance at its center.


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