Tough & Corny
An awkward tale of sibling rivalry
by Molly Templeton
RUDO Y CURSI: Written and directed by Carlos Cuarón. Cinematography, Adam Kimmel. Editing, Alex Rodriguez. Music, Felipe Pérez Santiago. Starring Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna, Guillermo Francella, Adriana Paz and Jessica Mas. Sony Pictures Classics, 2009. R. 103 minutes.
|Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal in Rudo y Cursi|
Somehow, it’s been seven years since Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna were two sides of a gorgeous love triangle in Alfonso Cuarón’s Y Tu Mama Tambien. Y Tu Mama was written by Alfonso Cuarón and his little brother Carlos, who now directs Rudo y Cursi, a film that comes with a burden of expectation that’s not all due to the presence of its stars. The film’s producers include that glowing trinity of Mexican filmmaking: the elder Cuarón, Guillermo del Toro and Alejandro González Iñárritu. Plus, it involves football (it would be wrong to call it soccer in this context). What could go wrong?
Well, plenty. Rudo y Cursi roughly translates to “tough and corny,” and as many a viewer has already pointed out, the film has too much of the latter. It’s a soapy story about the price of fame that comes liberally doused in cheesy metaphors about sport and life, most of which are delivered in voiceover by Guillermo Francella, who sounds slightly amused by what he’s being asked to say. Francella plays Batuta, a football scout who claims a great love of the game but isn’t above threatening coaches when they don’t put in his players in. In a small village, he finds Beto (Luna) and Tato (García Bernal), half brothers who work at a banana farm and play football on a local dirt field. Beto already has his nickname, Rudo, on account of his aggression. Tato is dubbed Cursi after Batuta takes him to Mexico City and gets him on a team; Tato’s play is a bit goofy, apparently, though all we really see of it is his post-goal ritual. For whatever reason (a comment in the production notes suggests García Bernal isn’t much of a footballer), Rudo y Cursi skimps on actual game play, which leaches the story of some of its passion.
Getting on a team is a dream come true for Beto when Batuta summons him to the city. Like Tato, he finds football success, but where Tato would rather be a famous singer (a limelight-lover, he also dates a famous TV personality), Beto can’t stop gambling. For the most part, Rudo y Cursi treads familiar narrative ground, its undisciplined characters the victims of their own personalities and desires. They’re believable fuckups but not particularly sympathetic ones, and their cinematic plight is an off-balance mix of occasionally comic and, as the film progresses, increasingly dangerous. Naturally, everything comes to a head in the film’s final game, a fraternal clash that outshines the rest of the film. Finally, the game itself means something to the story; whatever happens, the crashing arcs of Beto and Tato’s stories will find some kind of resolution. Rudo y Cursi isn’t an uplifting sports movie any more than it’s a realistic slice-of-life film; it treads strangely, slightly awkwardly, in the middle ground. Is it dismissive of a small town kid’s big dreams, or is Cuarón suggesting that if you try to live doing something that’s not your passion, it’s all going to go dramatically wrong?
Rudo y Cursi opens Friday, June 12, at the Bijou.