Robert will blow your mind.
A few years ago, there was a Levi’s advertisement featuring a little, yellow, furry puppet named Flat Eric. The music in this ad became inexplicably popular (I’m more of a Country fan myself) and was released as a single, the video for which also starred Eric and was directed by the musician himself, and Eric’s creator: a fella called Mr Oizo, or Quentin Dupieux as his mother knows him. Quentin is bonkers, in that delightful way the French sometimes are (see: Luc Besson; Jean-Pierre Jeunet) and now Quentin has made a film.
That film is Rubber; the story of a tyre – named Robert – that goes on a voyage of self-discovery through the desert of California. But Robert is no ordinary tyre. Robert can blow things up with his mind. If that doesn’t make you immediately want to run and get this flick, then I don’t know what will.
Rubber opens with a straight-to-camera monologue from Stephen Spinella as Lieutenant Chad, where he explains that the film we are about to see is an homage to – and exercise in – “no reason”. Why? No reason. This sequence might be a bit on-the-nose for some, but I like it. Spinella’s delivery is wonderfully dry and nonchalant, and to be honest, most people who tried to decipher the purpose of this movie would likely end up with something much grander and pretentious, thereby missing the whole point. Everything in this flick happens for no reason. Nothing is explained, nothing is even queried. Embracing that fact makes this killer tyre movie possibly the most realistic film I have ever seen.
Of course there is more to it than just watching a tyre rolling through the sparse but beautiful country. Robert falls in love with a girl he sees out driving, and follows her to a dusty old motel where he kills some more folk and almost befriends the owner’s son. The audience themselves are represented in the film by a bunch of observers with binoculars (including B-movie legend Wings Hauser) who stand on a bluff discussing Robert’s journey and are tended to by the distinctly odd Jack Plotnick and his turkey. As well as setting up the movie, Lieutenant Chad leads the police squad on Robert’s trail. The scene where he’s trying to lure Robert using a mannequin with a speaker around its neck is comedy gold.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you that this is a great film, because it’s not. While hugely amusing and great fun, the trailer is somewhat misleading. This is not a non-stop parade of exploding heads. It is more art movie than B-movie; a philosophical exercise. Your enjoyment of Rubber will be determined by your ability to buy into the stated intent. If you can appreciate that sometimes things just happen for no reason then there really is a lot to love here, not the least of which is the utterly gorgeous camerawork. If, however, you are the type of person that needs an explanation for even the slightest little event, then it is probably for the best if you just jog on.
Or roll on.