Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The kids -- Bernal and Luna -- return (older now) in the other Cuarón's RUDO y CURSI

Rather like an Y tu fútbol también, the new movie by Carlos Cuarón (shown left, screenwriter for Y tu mamá también, whose first directorial outing this is) gives the finger to fútbol (or, as we call it, soccer) as currently managed and marketed in Mexico -- which is but a step away from how big-league sports of all kinds are handled here, there and everywhere of late. (See Italy's Valzer for the final nail applied to the

coffin of sports-in-society.) Unfortunately, Senor's Cuarón's filmmaking finger is a short one -- and rather flaccid -- so do not expect much in the way of scathing satire, rapier wit or black comedy (the comedy is there, all right, but it's light gray).

The commercial idea, one suspects, was to reunite the stars, Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna, of that earlier worldwide hit and give them the chance to do some entertaining romping around the playgrounds of Mexico, both high-end-city and low-end-countryside. This is achieved commendably enough, and though the film manages to scale no heights, it coasts pleasantly along on the energy of and connection between its stars -- of which there is plenty.

Bernal (above), slight and luscious, remains waif-like and rather enchanting as the deluded fellow with a talent for soccer but none for singing -- which is, unfortunately, his first love. Luna (below) is maturing and broadening his abilities nicely (the mustache helps) as the more rigorous and honest of the two young men, stricken big-time with a sudden addiction to gambling. (Do see Luna's fine turn as the Michael Jackson impersonator in Mister Lonely, Harmony Korine's best film yet -- yes, I know that isn't saying much, but this one's actually pretty good!)

The gorgeous and sexy-in-standard-fashion Jessica Mas (below) plays a TV Show host who first snubs, then rubs and finally drubs the Cursi character (the title names, by the way, translate as "Tough and Corny"). Most perspicacious of these characters is the excellent Guillermo Francella (shown, center, in bottom photo) as the jaded but smart "agent" who discovers and then makes stars of the two lads. His running narration becomes the most interesting part of the movie because it quietly hits some home truths. (The running joke of the film is that, each time Francella appears, he has a new bombshell bimbo on his arm.)

As a first-time director, Carlos Cuarón does an adequate job of moving his movie along: the pacing is fast, if a bit too similarly choppy, scene to scene. While the film is colorful, there is nothing here of any particular visual interest, with the soccer scenes utterly standard, if that. The director gets good performances from all but nothing memorable from anyone, except via Señor Francella. And the constant banter, arguing and competition between Rudo and Cursi grows annoying after awhile.

Perhaps because the earlier Y tu mamá también offered similar energy and star-power but also a subtle, skewed look at politics, economics, class and more -- plus a dark, sad under-belly that took its toll -- this new film pales by comparison (which is, of course, odious). I must admit that it does provide some decent entertainment. But when, toward the finale, it appears that a character is about to meet a violent end, I realized that I didn't much care. Which made me also realize that I could have done without the entire movie.

Rudo y Cursi, from Sony Pictures Classics, opens Friday, May 8, in NYC and L.A. , with a national rollout to follow.

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