Quentin Dupieux’s subversive horror comedy “Rubber” has a lot more (and a lot less) going on than one would think after a brief glance at its plot summary.
A lone tire becomes a sentient being and discovers that it has the ability to kill living creatures telepathically. That is, “Scanners”-style—in horror terminology—by making beings’ heads explode.
If you think that’s absurd, you’re barely halfway there. While you, the audience, experiences the events of a serial-killing tire, an actual (Greek) chorus of people is watching the whole sordid affair from the safety of a barren desert wasteland through binoculars.
Are they meant to be stand-ins for the movie viewer? Is this a self-reflexive comment on moviegoing’s innate voyeurism? I wish I could formulate a clear, film-school hypothesis from the point of view of “Rubber,” but I can’t. It’s too filled with one-note jokes, repetition, and irrelavency to warrant a cohesive analysis.
If a movie falls in the forest and no one is there, will anyone see it? That’s the main question the film seems to be grappling with, and it’s not enough to support its short, 85-minute running time.
Part of the problem is that the police lieutenant (Stephen Spinella) who sets the tone and theme for the film is a total hick cliché who spouts forced nonsense like it is noble wisdom. As he proffers the idea of life having “no reason,” he proceeds to give really bad examples of his POV.
Whatever commentary Dupieux is trying to make is lost on me. And if that itself is the comment (abandonment of logic), then shame on him for being this lazy.
For all its narrative inventiveness, “Rubber” still spends too much time spinning its wheels on the “no reason” tip. Essentially what the Lieutenant lays out doesn’t really describe a nihilist attitude, so when the stakes are supposedly raised later, it doesn’t matter.
It’s a fitting excuse for the film’s insistence on delivering sardonic wit, but that “inventiveness” becomes (no pun intended) tiring pretty quick.