Rubber is one of those monster movies that manages to defy convention. For a genre defined by tropes and expectations, Rubber offers a breath of fresh air. It does not always work, however, and will certainly not prove everyone’s cup of tea.
Director: Quentin Depieux
Runtime: 85 minutes
US Theatrical Release: February 25, 2011; Magnolia Pictures
Quentin Depieux’s story about a killer tire starts strong. We are introduced to Robert the tire (although the name is never uttered in the script). He rises from the desert sand and like a baby bird, stumbles his way into the world. By the director’s admission, it is all reminiscent of WALL-E. As with that film, the early shots of Robert are marvelous. Depieux invests quality time in great camera work, special effects, and the “humanization” of the tire. The latter of which is the key to this flick. Once Robert discovers his own malevolent personality, we are off to the races.
Or at least that is what the marketing campaign would have you believe. Before Robert’s odyssey, Depieux throws a curve ball. Rather than the birth of a sentient tire, the initial moments of the film are dedicated to a team of mysterious humans preaching a gospel of “no reason”. They apply the Dada-esque philosophy to filmmaking, making the case that movies need not a reason to exist. The mysterious people then assemble a cohort of movie lovers to literally watch Robert’s journey. A meta “movie-within-a-movie” is quickly established, with the two plots converging at various points throughout the film.
While Depieux’s attempt at deconstructing art is welcomed, it is not without drawbacks. By forgoing convention, the story’s structural integrity waivers; by the end, the film appears to lose itself amidst all the “no reason”. It is no longer merely about a killer tire, nor fully committed to the human absurdity; rather than leaving you with any satisfying catharsis, it leaves you scratching your head. This, of course, may be the point but whether it begs repeated viewing is another matter.