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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Rust and Bone Review

Sony Pictures Classics
Rust and Bone Review
2012, 120 minutes
Rated R for strong sexual content, brief graphic nudity, some violence, and language

This is a perfect case of what happens when some great acting (almost) saves a mediocre story.  Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose, Inception) and Matthias Schoenaerts (Bullhead) give what are easily two of the best performances of the year.  I am so glad that Schoenaerts is starting to star in more higher-profile films as he truly is fantastic.  Before I delve into more details regarding the acting, let me talk about the basics of this film.  Rust and Bone is the new film by Jacques Audiard, director of 2009's masterful Oscar-nominee A Prophet and follows a whale trailer, Stephanie (Cotillard), who falls for a single dad who's also a bare-knuckle boxer, Ali (Schoenaerts), after she loses her legs in an accident during a show.

The acting is, as mentioned, some of the best of the year.  Cotillard is nothing short of a revelation as Stephanie.  She is not afraid to do anything and lays it all bare.  In one scene, towards the beginning after the accident, Stephanie wakes up in her hospital bed and realizes that her legs are gone.  With this realization, she breaks down.  Cotillard once again strips down her movie star image to turn in one of the most natural, real, and beautiful performances of the year.

And Schoenaerts is the perfect match.  After an impressive performance in the Oscar-nominated Bullhead, Schoenaerts gives another performance as a brute that is as good, if not better.  It is made all the more impressive given that his character isn't developed much.  The lack of character development is a major flaw of the film, as is the fact that Schoenaerts' character is very unlikable.  Unlikable characters can be good if it fits in the film (as in a Noah Baumbach movie), but here it takes out all emotional connection to the character.  The ending of the film is contrived and melodramatic (as is much of the latter half of the film), which deprives the film of the emotional punch that it needs to be a complete success.  The first chunk is great, though; full of compelling story and interesting scenes.  And, on a side note, the cinematography for Rust and Bone is gorgeous.

Overall, Rust and Bone is a movie about acting and individual scenes.  It isn't a great film, but is not by any means a bad one.  It will definitely work for many people, but it just didn't pack the punch that I wanted it to.  Expect an Oscar nomination for Cotillard's performance.  It's that good.

-Joshua Handler

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