Rudo y Cursi Movie Review
The director is the younger sibling of Alfonso Cuarón, director of the excellent Children of Men and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, who serves as producer here in his capacity as one of the heads of Cha Cha Cha Films, along with Guillermo del Toro and Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu. Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal, childhood friends and stars of the elder Cuarón's breakout arthouse hit Y Tu Mamá También, play the plainly-nicknamed titular half-brothers who are picked up out of their jobs as laborers in the banana fields of Jalisco and fashioned into soccer heroes in the would-be Metropolis of Mexico City.
Elder brother Rudo (Luna) is stern, quick-tempered, and self-righteous, happy to point out that he is the assistant to the assistant manager. Cursi (Bernal) is excitable, shameless, and vain, getting defensive at the very mention that his beloved singing career may be a pipe dream. They are easy marks for affable hustler Batuta (an excellent Guillermo Francella, who also serves as narrator), who gives them cups of ramen, signs them to minor-league soccer contracts on opposing teams, and reaps a great portion of the benefits from their talents. He first teases Cursi into the situation with the promise of helping him with his singing career, only to leverage a deal with Rudo by exploiting the obvious jealousy he has for his baby brother. Both seem more concerned with the approval of their mother than they do with Batuta, happy wives or a sister married to a drug kingpin.
Plagued with American sports-film clichés, climaxing with one brother's drug-addiction-cum-gambling-debt and the other's gold-digging celebrity girlfriend, the film ends up being far more pessimistic than one would think from the outset. Cuarón makes the film move with an unbound vitality, but the story, as befits its country's current climate, is typified by dread and a deep-seeded fatalism. Speeding like a runaway freighter to a sweaty-palm showdown between the two brothers on the soccer field, Cuarón doesn't distinguish between a doomed profession and a doomed life in the film's final quarter. In the face of lost fame, no money, and a world of pity, the two are nearly interchangeable.
For all of its just-add-water structure, the film works thanks to the deft interplay between the frothy narrative and the beaten path of grave disillusionment that runs underneath it. The brothers escape their fate with one broken leg and slightly better jobs than their banana farming days, but the fractured conscience of everyday Mexico remains. Standing outside a gorgeous seafront mansion, which their brother-in-law bought for their mother, Rudo and Cursi have settled for their less-famous careers and seeing their mother's pride go to a drug czar. Of the many things Rudo y Cursi is, it is not a parable based in reality, but at least it has the good sense to accept it.