Alain (Matthias Schoenaerts) and Stephanie (Marion Cotillard) first cross paths at a nightclub in the south of France. Alain, who just took a bus with his son, Sam, (Armand Verdure) and moved in with his grocery teller sister, Anna (Corinne Masiero), gets work as a bouncer at the club and meets Stephanie by breaking up a fight that she’s in. Driving her home, he calls her out her outfit as something a whore would wear, but that doesn’t stop him from giving her his phone number.
Months later when Stephanie does call Alain its under very different circumstances. Stephanie, who trains Orca whales at a pseudo French Seaworld loses both her legs in a vaguely shot sequence. The two become friends and fuel each other. She becomes his inner strength that helps him fulfill his potential, a brutal potential as he rises through the ranks of underground MMA fighting, and he is the non-coddling presence that snaps her out of her depression, letting her transition to life after her tragedy.
I just love director Jacques Audiard’s wide scope for the human character. His French crime thriller masterpiece, A Prophet, hit me like a thunderbolt. That gem shows the rise of a lowly criminal to his monumental rise to mafia kingpin and earned every single one of it’s 155 minutes of running time, not wasting a frame. Audiard allows his characters to sizzle, being altered by every turn in the road that life gives them.
You can see that scope in Audiard’s latest, Rust and Bone, even if it never nears the impacts of A Prophet. There’s a higher ante of melodrama in Rust and Bone that, at times, almost veers into crazyland and might have if not for the piercing and impressively honest performances from it’s two leads; Oscar winner Marion Cotillard, who made history when she became the first actor to win an Academy Award in a French speaking film when she took home Best Actress in La Vie en Rose, and Matthias Schoenaerts, who got everyone’s attention from his starring turn in last year’s Academy nominated Best Foreign Film Bullhead.
Cotillard, a marvelous actress who expertly dances between big Hollywood fare back to strong indies could most definitely pick up another nod, dazzling in her transformation. They thankfully don’t dwell the whole film on Stephanie’s depression and even get dramatically much more from Katy Perry’s Firework than anyone should ever be able to.
This doesn’t feel like this is Jacques Audiard’s most concentrated effort. The twists and turns aren’t as fully fleshed out as they were in A Prophet, but there is still a searing realness that cuts to the bone. Like I said, that consistent heaping of melodrama is only saved by Cotillard and Schoenaert’s talents and a mutual chemistry that would impress Bill Nye the Science Guy.
Rust and Bone might not get the acclaim of Audiard’s previous A Prophet, but you can’t escape the searing and heartbreaking truth that the director and his actors are able to elicit.
Take a Drink: whenever Alain punches anything.
Take a Drink: whenever there’s nudity.
Take a Drink: when you see or hear the term O.P.E.
Take a Drink: if you cry (that’s one drink for me).
Down a Shot: when you hear Katie Perry’s Firework play.