Tag Archives: Rust and Bone

Rent It: Marion Cotillard Gave 2012’s Finest Performance in “Rust and Bone”

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A couple days ago, I told you about “Little White Lies,” a Marion Cotillard-starrer now streaming on Netflix. Sadly, one of her many films only available on disc is “Rust and Bone,” although you can stream it from Amazon for $12.99. It is a great film, I think, one I would call a must-see. Here is my four-star Buffalo News review.

“Rust and Bone” is 2012’s most intensely physical love story, an emotionally shattering sensory collision of killer whales, prosthetic limbs, bare-knuckle kick-boxing, and Katy Perry’s “Fireworks.”

Sounds like a mess, doesn’t it? Have no fear. Jacques Audiard’s French language Cannes entry is a triumph, an intense, jolting experience that verges on the overwrought but never falls overboard.

Marion Cotillard is Stephanie, a killer whale trainer whose life changes following a devastating tragedy, and even though the Oscars foolishly ignored her work, it might be the year’s most complete performance. (What happens to Stephanie is not a secret. Yet not knowing might make the film an even more powerful experience.)

Before the accident, Stephanie meets Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts), a beefy, ornery brute and single father. His past includes a kick-boxing stint, and his dream is to get back in that world; a child is not part of the plan.

Ali and Sam move in with his put-upon sister Anna (Corinne Masiero), a frazzled but caring supermarket employee, and her husband, and Ali gets a job as a bouncer. Here, he assists a sad-eyed woman with a knack for trouble – Stephanie. These wounded souls – both physically and emotionally battered – forge a friendship, an odd one.

Stephanie is still recovering from a life-changing event. Ali does not want to be a father to Sam, leading to several heart-wrenching scenes with young actor Armand Verdure. Watch the boy’s reaction when Ali angrily hoses him down, or after a beloved dog is taken away. Then watch Schoenaerts’ responses. You’ll hate him, but you’ll buy every second of it.

As “Rust and Bone” develops, we see almost every corner of Stephanie and Ali’s lives. We watch as the relationship becomes sexual, as the unthinking Ali both nurtures and hurts, as he begins brutal back-alley kick-boxing for money, as he seems to grow, a little, as a father, and as Stephanie starts to live again.

It is occasionally overwhelming, never more so than during the film’s last 10 minutes, a scene involving Sam that many will call manipulative, but in the context of the film seems grimly logical. It works, for three main reasons: its lead actress and actor, and its director.

Cotillard’s passionate, note-perfect work is no surprise; from her Oscar-winning performance as Edith Piaf in “La Vie en Rose” to her unhinged support in “Inception,” she has become one of our finest actors — if not the finest.

But unless you’re one of the lucky few to have experienced last year’s Academy Award-nominated foreign film “Bullhead,” this is your introduction to Schoenaerts, and you’re unlikely to forget it. Along with Tom Hardy, Schoenaerts is our most physically emotive performer, an actor who punches, yells and detonates with Brando-like muscle.

It’s overseen by Audiard, the stylist behind the violent French hits “The Beat That My Heart Skipped” and “A Prophet.” From its uses of music and silence to its visual majesty, it’s the work of a director in full command.

“Rust and Bone” is not a film that works for everyone; the inane Entertainment Weekly included it on its worst of 2012 list. But if it wraps you up, it’s a wrenching, overpowering creation. I’d call it one of the most satisfying love stories in recent memory.


Photo: Marion Cotillard as Stephanie and Matthias Schoenaerts as Ali; photo by Jean-Baptiste Modino, courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics


Movies to Avoid This Father’s Day (And One to Watch)

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It’s unlikely I’m the first to write this, and about this films, but who cares? As Tweeted earlier today, here is my first annual “must avoid” list:

  • “The Shining”: Pretty obvious. Hotel caretaker becomes homicidal maniac, attempts to kill wife and son, upsets Tony. (See also: “The SHINN-ing.”)
  • “Antichrist”: Dad and mom have slo-mo black-and-white intercourse, tot takes a tumble. First five minutes, mainly. This one also works for Mother’s Day.
  • “Frailty”: Dad might be the devil.
  • “The Celebration”: Dad … I’d rather not get into it.
  • “Father’s Day”: Mawkish sentimentalism from a mugging Robin Williams; Sugar Ray cameo.
  • “Julien Donkey-Boy”: Don’t ask.
  • “The Great Santini”: Dad treats the fam like grunts; see also, the Fitzes in “American Beauty.”
  • “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me”: You can’t blame EVERYTHING on Bob.
  • “Daddy Day Care/Camp”: The horror.
  • “Peeping Tom”: Dad films every moment of junior’s life, and this was pre-iPhone. Think of the equipment.
  • “Raising Cane”: See, “Peeping Tom.”
  • “Damage”: Dad really, REALLY likes his son’s new girlfriend.
  • “Big Daddy”: The worst thing in the world, ever.

This is tip of the iceberg, people. Speaking of ice, I want to mention one of the great movie dads (seriously) of the last year. At the start of Jacques Audiard’s “Rust and Bone,” I, like everyone else, despised Matthias Schoenaerts’s Ali. But something extraordinary happens in this truly great film: We believable real character development, and watch as Ali grows into a real father. It all culminates in a rather manipulative but cathartic sequence involving Ali, his little boy Sam, and some ice. It choked me up as a viewer, and a father, and made me want to go home and give my son a big hug. That being said, I don’t think we’ll be watching “Rust” for, well, a few years, at least.

(Here is my four-star Buffalo News review of the Marion Cotillard-starrer.)


Photo from Film Comment’s 1980 defense of The Shining.