2012-12-20 / Entertainment

Hello From Hollywood

Rust and Bone: Cotillard Shines Again
BY J. ROBERTS

Rust and Bone is a new, engaging melodrama by French director Jacques Audiard with bravura performances by its gusty stars, Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard (La Vie En Rose) and Matthias Schoenaerts. In the French-language film, Cotillard plays Stephanie a whale trainer and Schoenaerts is an aimless, twenty-five year father. As their lives intersect after a tragedy, they are compelled to stay connected. Their relationship has many moods that keeps things uneasy and unpredictable, but it’s the actors that provide the film’s best moments.

We meet Ali (Schoenaerts) as he flees with his younger son Sam (Armand Verdure) to live with his sister and her partner in the south of France’s Antibes. The burly and muscular ex-prizefighter soon gets a job at a nightclub where he meets Stephanie (Cotillard), rescuing her from an brawl she has with a patron. The two share some subtle sparks which are quickly extinguished by Stephanie’s man after Ali gets her home safely. While at work at a Sea-World type amusement park, Stephanie has an horrific accident, suffering the loss of both legs just above the knee - biten by a deadly orca whale whose killer instincts overpower its training. Lost, depressed and full of despair, Stephanie reaches out to Ali during her early stages of rehabilitation. As their relationship progresses, this alpha-male begins to open up slowly, but more as result of her guiding him to doing what he knows best. He returns to fighting and makes decent money. The two hook up for casual sex even though Ali continues to have sex with other women, complicating things for her. Fortunately for Stephanie, her life turns around after receiving artificial legs that give her hope. Ali, meanwhile, suffers a deeper blow while taking his son on a secret play-date (away from his sister who threw him out), throwing his life out of control as the boy fights for his life, but also opening Ali to all that he truly needs in his life.

Cotillard delivers another fine and nuanced performance as someone struggling to adjust to her post-trauma life and finding her way. She handles her hunger to be whole again in heart-wrenching moments. Last week, the Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globes deservedly acknowledged her work with Best Actress nominations at their upcoming award ceremonies. Schoenaerts, who physically transformed himself for the role by gaining more than 40 pounds, shows his range, from volatile thug to a sensitive father and lover; the transition is effective and thoroughly satisfying. The visual effects are seamless and extraordinary – quite awesome and disturbing to see Stephanie’s body post-accident dangling on Ali’s back and later walking alongside him on the boardwalk, always looking authentic.

The film, based on a short story by Craig Davidson, was written by Audiard and Thomas Bidegain. Both screenplay writers have plunged the depths of their two main characters, giving the actors much to play with to make these characters and their flaws very human and raw. Even at 2 hours, the film seems a little long, but the two stars are worth the journey.

Rust and Bone is MPAA-rated R and is currently in limited release in the U.S.

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