Netflix Picks: Rubber


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Everybody loves Netflix; television and movies on demand, reliable transmission, good customer service and a low price tag. It’s hard to beat. The problem is there are only 13 new episodes of Orange is the New Black every year, and spending money on an unused subscription for nine months stings. So what is a viewer to do in the off-season?

Let’s assume that, like me, you’ve already binged (or re-binged) on Twin Peaks and all the crap your friends go on about on Facebook. But don’t forget that Netflix also brings weird, offbeat movies you’ve probably never heard of.

Sure, most aren’t two-thumbs-up classics. But $8.99 a month is cheaper than gambling on a movie ticket, and cheaper yet than paying for cable to watch another endless NCIS marathon.

Here's this week's alternative to weeping into your empty wallet while Mark Harmon acts stoic: Quentin Dupieux’s "Rubber."

"Rubber" is a film about a psychokinetic car tire — it's a French absurdist take on cheesy thrillers set in the desert. Instead of leaving the heckling to the audience, Dupieux literally wrote it into the script.

Before we get to the tire, the heroic Lieutenant Chad (Stephen Spinella) has to climb out of the back of a black Cadillac and deliver an absurdly artsy statement to the audience. Not us at home, mind you, but the people standing in the desert with binoculars watching the film unfold.

The tire, named Robert, comes to life in a dump in the middle of the California desert. It stumbles and falls as it learns to roll ... and kill. Within a few days of coming to life, Robert is blowing up heads like he's auditioning for Scanners 6.

Despite having neither voice nor face — because a movie about a talking murderous tire would be too silly — Robert does have an emotional range. His solo scenes work and give the movie just a little heart. (As far as potential lead actors go for a hypothetical sixth "Scanners" movie, there are worse choices.) While Robert begins his killing spree, and obsessing over a mysterious woman (Roxane Mesquida), Chad is working with the Accountant (Jack Plotnick) to end the movie early by killing the audience. Spinella shines during the scene, shifting from police officer to tired actor and back. Somewhere between winning Tony Awards for "Angels in America," Spinella must have been taking notes on John Cleese in Monty Python's Flying Circus.

As for Mesquida, she works as a poor director's Marion Cotillard. She breathes exotic and unattainable without being a caricature, and when she finally gets her lines – delivered through a speaker on a dummy – she's on a good level of uncomfortable. Despite Dupieux's focus on "no reason" style choices, her character is a sly nod to the use of women as objects in thrillers and horror movies.

The movie at large lacks focus; it feels like the audience members don't know why they're there. The plot ambles through thriller set pieces and lurid nonsense at about the same pace. There's a sparse quality to the whole affair that makes sense, but it still feels odd.

"Rubber" is a fun kind of strange, but it's not as smart or as dangerous as it wants to be. That said, it's a damn fun watch, and it runs short at only 82 minutes.

Congratulations, you're one movie closer to justifying that $8.99 a month.


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