In surely one of the weirdest plots ever committed to celluloid, Rubber is the story of a tire that achieves sentience and goes on a murderous telekinetic rampage through a backwater US town.
Robert (an absolutely brilliant name for a tire – say it with a French accent), is an abandoned rubber tire discarded in the desert. After mysteriously coming to life, he initially takes glee is his ability to move independently, rolling contentedly in the desert sands. After taking a childish pleasure in the destruction of a few inanimate objects by rolling over them, he encounters a glass bottle which he can’t crush. Robert soon discovers he has telekinetic powers and after smashing the bottle with his mind, turns his attention to a variety of small animals and inevitably to humanity.
Pursuing Robert is the local sheriff (Stephen Spinella), a man who realises that he’s in a movie and that therefore the only way to stop it from happening is to stop the audience from watching. Hence, he sets out to kill off the group of spectators observing through binoculars from a nearby hillside as they comment on the movie unfolding in front of them.
Quentin Dupieux should be applauded for at least trying something new. In a world of sequels, remakes, reboots and rehashes, it’s refreshing to see a director who is attempting to do something original with cinema. Robert is surprisingly emotive; at times you’ll swear you can make out expressions amongst his tire treads and the animated incorporation into the film is completely seamless. Pixar’s John Lasseter would be proud.
However, despite its playful toying with cinematic tropes, Rubber lacks the narrative or dramatic drive to keep an audience wholly captivated; Dupieux is more interested in the initial existential joke than actually making a coherent film. At its heart Rubber is an intellectual parody of slasher-centric monster movies; the point being that Robert could be substituted for any number of fictitious antagonists and it would make no difference.
Dupieux attempts to address our concerns and questions by putting them into the spectators’ mouths, so they’re frequently heard saying things like “What’s happening?”, “I don’t understand; this is boring”. While that’s initially quite amusing as an example of meta-film making, highlighting your film’s deficiencies and being aware of them does in no way excuse them and Rubber possesses little of the action or wit that its trailer implied – the constant breaking of the fourth wall instead derails any sense of coherent narrative.
Even so, the originality and inherent ridiculousness of its premise is enough to spark an interest and for half of its running time, its absurdity makes for curious viewing. Rubber may well have worked as a short film but stretched to an hour and fifteen minutes, its one-joke concept doesn’t have the mileage to go the distance.