Rudo y Cursi Directed by: Carlos Cuaron Cast: Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna, Guillermo Francella Running Time: 1 hr 40 mins Rating: R Release Date: May 15, 2009
Plot: Two competitive brothers (Bernal and Luna) dream of becoming professional Mexican soccer players.
Who’s It For? This is the kind of "foreign film" that speaks universally. It deserves to be recognized outside of its immediate national audience.
Expectations: Cuaron, Bernal, and Luna were all a part of Y Tu Mama Tambien, the 2001 film from Mexico which helped put all involved on Hollywood's map. It didn't seem like a stretch to expect greatness in round two.
Gael Garcia Bernal as Tato: Sometimes good luck is a random handout, but appears in a form not in alignment with our wishful plans. This is the idea behind Tato, a capable player who would rather be singing than playing soccer as a job. As his ego grows with his paycheck, he does get that unwarranted "singing career," but his lack of skill in that area makes him into the rich fool. Similar to his on-screen brother, Tato's own story indicates that "the good life" really ain't so great. Bernal does a wonderful job playing the clown, and effectively balances both the comedic and pathetic aspects of his "successful" character. Score: 8
Diego Luna as Beto: Dreams that become our final leg of hope are exemplified by this pitiful character who is equally as powerful. He represents the other type of dreamer - "the doomed loser." He may have more pride, (probably too much) than his brother Beto, but he is always trapped by his off-field vices. Luna is impressive in this slightly depressing role, and is surely more interesting here than in last year's Milk. Score: 8
Guillermo Francella as Batuta: Talent scouts are often portrayed as slimy supporters of a cruel cycle that chew and spit out human beings often not capable of handling professional responsibility. Batuta is this monster but more - beneath his greed is actual support for the two brothers. His unexpected friendliness is a great complexity to a character that is kept from being one-sided by Francella's smirking performance. Score: 8
Talking: This Spanish film chooses to use subtitles that are white, which makes reading them a bit difficult in a few scenes. Philosophical statements comparing life to soccer are delicately sprinkled throughout the story, and delivered warmly by the supposedly evil character Batuta. Score: 7
Sights: Director Carlos Cuaron's camera works in secrecy. Especially compared to his brother, Alfonso (Children of Men), Cuaron does not show off his decent amount of long takes. Contrary to nearly every film made involving sports, Rudo y Cursi makes the conscious decision of focusing on the audience during a game's key moments - interested in the reaction more than the action. A couple of pivotal on field moments are shown, but overall this film scores in achieving its goal of showing how important soccer is to every single pumping heart in the stadium. Score: 8
Sounds: Gael Garcia Bernal graces us with a wonderful rendition of the Cheap Trick song "I Want You To Want Me." There's even a music video, which is certain to start a small fire on Youtube. Score: 8
Best Scene: The best of sports movies are remembered in a great final ten minutes that have pure dramatic intensity. Rudo's script does a great job of creating a dilemma that really makes "the final match" as important as it should be, which adds nail-biting suspense to an already emotionally involving film.
Ending: Sports cliches may not be avoided entirely, but their outcome in Rudo helps maintain the movie's ability to move its audience.
Questions: Is this movie pessimistic? Does it actually support dreams, especially those to play sports professionally?
Rewatchability: I would be very curious to see this again. I enjoyed it more than the claustrophobic, "everyone cheats on each other," Y Tu Mama Tambien. I also would like to double check my thought that this is the best movie I've seen so far in 2009.
Once again, Bernal and Luna prove to be a winning team. Similar to their characters in Y Tu Mama Tambien, they are put on a type of journey that is squashed by their refusal to mature. The couple have aged a few years it seems, but their unfounded egos have barely faded - boys will always be boys, it seems.
Writer/director Carlos Cuaron has crafted a great story with fascinating characters and a solid plot structure. But the most compelling aspect of the winning Rudo y Cursi is how he chooses to present the brothers' reality. A dark undertone can be heard buzzing in each moment that feels like a glint of hope. Powerfully contrary to the usual idea that dreams are sunny and even more so achievable, the brothers' goals are out of complete desperation. And while watching them try to escape, the story is more dramatic than expected, but keeps its lightness through its peaking happy moments (or the times when we laugh at how pitiful they are). The glorification of sports too often hides the many problems that obstruct the road to its professionalism. Cuaron and co. take a unique step back and achieve high poignancy by asking whether getting the goal is really worth it.
Final Score: 9/10