From watching the trailer to this film I got the impression that it was just a darkly comedic, B-movie slasher with a silly premise. And although I’ve enjoyed a lot of movies of that ilk – You’re Next is a particular favourite of mine – I wasn’t in any rush to catch up with it. Until, that is, I noticed its availability on Netflix and its 73 minute run time, and then it was on like Donkey Kong.
The premise of this film is that an abandoned car tire comes to life, only to almost almost immediately reveal itself as a psychopath intent on murdering everything. (By way of its telekinetic powers, no less!) No explanation is given as to the how or why of this premise, but it doesn’t really matter because of how effective this tire is as a character. Writer/director Quentin Dupieux gets this tire to emote, without directly resorting to dialogue or exposition, and he deserves no less praise for that effort than the film-makers who made the first half of Wall-E seem compelling.
What surprised me about Rubber, though, is how much else it had going on. We’ve all seen films about making films, and even films about watching films, but Rubber approaches both those angles from a delightfully macabre perspective that plays out wonderfully on screen. There’s a lot that isn’t explained or doesn’t make sense, and Dupieux is comfortable enough letting you make up your own mind about what it all means. For me, the film was about how cinema has this capacity to not only challenge the expectations of the artists who forge it, but also those of audiences and the film industry itself. Once in a while, a film has the power to reshape the world around it, as if by magic – stories informing reality – and Rubber is an ode to that. But it leaves plenty of loose threads for other movie-goers to take up.
Rubber offers an unusual plot, some clever performances, lovely cinematography, modestly-effective practical effects, and a healthy dose of experimental weirdness. And this is all delivered in a well-paced package where none of these elements threaten to detract from one another and spoil the piece. Check it out for its popcorn entertainment value, or for the fridge thoughts it inspires. Either way, it's all over before it exhausts its conceit.