Rudo y Cursi

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

            “Rudo y Cursi” is a fair to middling story of two buddy brothers who want to make it big in the world without having to work at it. In the early and strongest part of the movie, we in the audience are dropped suddenly and completely into the culture of a rural Mexican town where the boys work on a banana plantation and dream of bigger lives.

            This is a culture that bestows several names, somewhat confusingly, on its citizens. Tato (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Beto (Diego Luna) are nicknamed Cursi (silly) and Rudo (tough). When Batuta (Guillermo Francella) is felled by a flat tire on the main dirt street, he walks over to a soccer game to scout the talent. In short order he has brought the brothers to Mexico City where both succeed on the field and fail miserably off it. Their country eyes are so big, and there is so much stuff to acquire.

            Rudo’s fall comes at the hands of the gambling world - all that fast money, debt, inability to pay the mob, drugs. Cursi falls for Maya Vega (Jessica Mas), a TV personality who becomes an ornament on his arm for a spell before dumping him for someone else. All the while, they are competing on the soccer field, Rudo as a goalie, Cursi as a shooter. One of the best of many metaphorical allusions is to the loneliness of the goalie. Batuta remarks on the truth that a goalie watches life unfold on the field at a distance, removed from his teammates until an opponent breaks through to reach him. The moment of truth on the field and in life, the story says, is the penalty shot – two men against each other armed only with talent and passion. It is a moment that becomes the final contest for the brothers who fought all their lives against each other and against the culture that nurtured them.

            Before the boys are bewitched by success and luxury, their dream is to build a beautiful house for their mother. But this is not pastoral place, and that is not an easy goal. They are driven both before and after the big city by a ferocious energy that propels them out of their village and into an adult rivalry. Full of nasty accusations and bullying, especially by Rudo to Cursi, the underlying emotions of love and loyalty are obscure, but fiery and harsh.

            In contrast to the pleasure of tasting another culture, and in spite of the intense energy that drives the movie, there is a curious flatness to our reactions to the characters. The inescapable truth of it is that none of them is particularly likable. They are a weak lot, these brothers, their mentor, their women, and the people who help them slide down the icy slope of envy. It is a rowdy movie without much fun, a coming of age movie without much inspiration.

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