Rubber is the kind of film that thinks it’s about as clever as a film can be, and yet it’s not. It contains a meta-narrative, it’s about as self-aware as possible, and — well, it’s about a sentient tire that goes around and kills people. I mean, how do you tell that story completely straight-faced? It would probably be a terrible experience for both the audience and the filmmakers if that was the attempt, and yet, because of the comedic touches that director Quentin Dupieux imbues it with, the film, as a whole, works.
Our opening scene smells of being too smug for its own good. It has a man come up to the camera, look it in the eye, and tell us that a lot of films have things that happen for no reason, and that the film we’re about to watch is an homage to such a plot device. It turns out that he’s talking to an audience watching the “film” we’re about to see on a hill with binoculars. They’ll make comments every now and then and will become bothersome — something that they’ll even comment on, but won’t do anything about.
What are they watching? Well, they’re about to see a tire come to life, learn how to roll on its own, figure out that it has telepathic powers, and eventually gain full sentience — or so it seems. We’re going to watch its exploits for the next 80 minutes, and the film will comment on the ridiculous nature that it’s showing us via the audience that’s watching it with us. There also seems to be something sinister going on underneath, but I won’t reveal that to you, in large part because I’m still not exactly sure what was going on the whole time.
It’s all kind of vague and only parts are truly explained, so I’m not even going to try to get into exactly what’s happening beneath the surface of Rubber. Basically, if you’re watching this film it’s to see a killer tire anyway, so take anything else as a bonus, I suppose. If the film happens to be about a killer tire and also be about something else, if it has ideas and commentary on top of the killer tire, then I’ll take that any day of the week.
If you don’t want to see a killer tire — I can’t emphasize the choice of both protagonist and villain enough — roam the face of the Earth for 80 minutes, then no amount of genuine intellect and wit will save the film for you. The premise drew me in, but I think that if there wasn’t something else going on, it would have gotten dull after a feature length running time. As a short film, just having a killer tire on the loose might have been enough. Having the killer tire while also commenting about it to the audience is what makes Rubber worthwhile.
It does drag on after a while, but the film also comments on this, having one of the audience members actually coming into the “film” area and telling the characters that (1) they’re boring him and (2) they’re approaching the situation the wrong way, and that there would be a faster, easier way to go about things. This may be irritating to some audience members, but I found it endearing. Sure, it not necessarily original, and it could have been avoided, making the “film” better, but the artistic choice to comment on it made me laugh, just like it did most of the time while watching Rubber.
There is a point in time when Rubber comes completely off the rails and unglued, where the “film” almost entirely stops. This section dragged on a little too much and also didn’t make a whole lot of sense, but then, I suppose that comes with the territory. Not much of it does makes sense, and that’s kind of the point. It’s an homage to the “no reason,” and you either have to accept it for that or stay well clear.
Rubber did make me question where the line is for self-aware films. When can a film be too self-aware that it becomes a detriment? How much self-indulgence can a filmmaker have before the film suffers as a result? I don’t have the answers to those questions, especially after seeing Rubber, but I began to ask them. The film made me think, and I thank it for that. The only thing that I’m sure of is that for me, the line was not crossed here. It might have been threatened, but it was not crossed.
I must say that whatever movie magic was used to make the killer tire move around was quite impressive, as were the few explosions of people, glass bottles, and even a poor little bunny. Yes, I’m not generally happy when a rabbit gets blown up in a movie, but, once again, this is commented on, and I was assured that the rabbit wasn’t real. It’s always nice to know that the filmmakers didn’t kill an actual rabbit in the making of their film. I know that the credits usually reassure us that “No animals were harmed in the making of this film,” but really, who wants to wait that long to find out? I thank Rubber for not making me wait to find out whether a bunny died for our enjoyment.
Rubber is an enjoyable little film starring a killer tire. If that’s not enough to get you to watch it, then you might as well skip it anyway, as it’s not for you. The meta-narrative helps ease things along when it begins to get dull, and I’ll always appreciate junk that makes you think, so I have to give Rubber a recommendation. It’s a lot of fun.