Writer and director Quentin Dupieux’s Rubber is one of those movies that’s not really good or bad–just odd. It opens up with shots of a desert landscape until finally focusing on a car tire half-buried in the dirt. Slowly, the tire begins to tremble and soon fixes itself upright. It starts to move around on its own, falling down every few feet until it’s able to maintain balance. It rolls about, crushing a plastic bottle and a scorpion. It comes across a beer bottle, realizing that it’s unable to destroy it by simply running over it it starts to utilize psychokinetic powers to explode it from a distance. Then we see that there are a horde of people watching with binoculars, more impressed by the tire than shocked or perplexed. And it only gets weirder from there…
So, yeah, this is a movie–a movie about a killer tire. Well, you can make a movie about anything, can’t you? But the problem with Rubber is that the premise, despite the movie ticking in around only 80 minutes, runs thin pretty quickly; it would have made for a better 10-20 minute short than something feature-length. To compensate, Dupieux inserts some weird “meta-ness” via the crowd of spectators. The spectators are supposed to represent the audience as they are fixated on the tire and its shenanigans, commenting as it discovers its powers and watches a woman its obsessed with shower at a hotel. Soon, some guy with glasses is employed by an off-screen “master” to poison the spectators so the film can end, but one spectator survives and everything goes on. The remaining spectator represents the few people in the theater who have managed to stay with the movie.
In addition, the movie is classified as a “horror-comedy,” but it’s really neither. It’s not a horror film for it’s not scary, nor do there seem to be any intent, within the film, to shock. It’s closer to being a comedy, but the problem is that it’s not really that funny. The humor is mostly derived from the film’s absurdity, but that’s it; there aren’t really any “ha-ha” moments, just a single joke being stretched-out.
As I was watching I kept thinking of the film, Holy Motors, a movie that also seemed like they were making it up as they went along. Like that movie, there was some unrealized potential here as well. Instead of trying to be a post-modernist take on the horror genre and its inherent voyeurism, the movie really should have tried to excel as a silly B-movie. Yes, there are a lot of over-the-top comedic B-films out there, but this movie’s premise was just crying out for a similar treatment. And there could still be some elements of post-modernism of course, but emphasize the head-exploding and the possible scenarios surrounding a homicidal tire.
A teenager who might conjure up a similar concept for a film might think that Rubber is “out-there”–but it’s not. It’s interesting that a movie like this exists, but, beyond that, not much else can be said. What am I doing with my life?