Robert is a discarded tire that mysteriously animates itself somewhere in the generic southwest. As it rolls along the highway, it discovers it can make heads telekinetically explode, if it starts vibrating with a purpose. It is boring out there in the boonies, so naturally the bodies quickly pile up. Basically, everyone who crosses his path is in for it, except Sheila, his (human) femme fatale, whom he begins to stalk. However, before we can say “not another movie about a serial killing Michelin with the shine,” Dupieux adds an additional meta-layer of absurdity. As it turns out, Robert and Sheila are being watched.
There is something undeniably appealing about Dupieux’s willingness to chuck the kitchen sink into Rubber, pipes and all. Unfortunately, he is about as contemptuously disinterested in the film’s internal logical consistency as Obama is in the events tragically unfolding in Japan—not very, not at all. As a result, the audience is constantly aware they are being played. Dupieux tells us so straight out through his mouthpiece, Lieutenant Chad, who constantly repeats the mantra: “no reason.”
Serving as his own d.p., Dupieux shot with the video function of an off-the-shelf consumer digital camera, with surprisingly professional looking results. Frankly, it puts the herky-jerkies of the Transformers franchise to shame. The animatronic effects are also nicely executed, but what can you say about a film when the best performance comes from a tire? At least Wings Hauser is able to walk the fine line, signaling he is in on the joke while maintaining a semblance of character relatively well as the “Man in Wheelchair.”
Despite his gamesmanship, Dupieux ultimately conforms to genre conventions when he leaves Rubber wide open for a potential sequel. Here’s hoping it’s in 3-D. Laudably inventive but too self-consciously knowing for its own good, Rubber opens this Friday (4/1) in New York at the Cinema Village.