By Don Simpson | May 27, 2009
Director: Carlos Cuarón
Writer(s): Carlos Cuarón
Starring: Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna, Guillermo Francella
How could Rudo y Cursi go wrong? Produced by the holy trinity of modern Mexican cinema (Alfonso Cuaron, Guillermo del Toro and Alejandro González Iñárritu); directed by Carlos Cuaron (Alfonso’s brother); starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna; and featuring a plot about my favorite sport – football (ahem, soccer). But just like Beto a.k.a. Rudo (Luna) and Tato a.k.a. Cursi (Bernal), destiny yanked the proverbial carpet of greatness out from under Rudo y Cursi. But that is not to say that it is not a good film. However, in the context of the history of cinema, Rudo y Cursi is destined to be forgotten while Alfonso’s Y Tu Mama Tambian (written by Carlos) and Children of Men are sure to be heralded as two of the best films of this decade.
And so the story goes, two brothers pitted against each other competing for fame in the same field…They both excel on the football pit – Rudo (English: rude) as goaltender, Cursi (English: corny) as striker (yet Cursi considers himself to be a singer, not a striker). When a devilish agent named Batuta (Guillermo Francella) – the narrator of this tale (the boldest choice of this film, which I will get to later) –
comes to their poverty stricken small town (in which a banana plantation and drug lord are the only employers) to recruit one, but not the other; both brothers make poor choices and Cursi finds himself in the backseat of the agent’s convertible being whisked away to the Leviathan of all Leviathans – Mexico City.
Destiny has firm grasp on Cursi and Rudo (who is recruited by Batuta soon after Cursi is signed to a team). No matter how they cheat fate, greed gets the worst of the brothers and promptly returns them to their destined path time after time. Cursi and Rudo are poor and stupid Mexicans and they cannot change that…ever. The direst of all perspectives, if ever there was one; Rudo y Cursi reeks of the same cynicism as the Dead Kennedy’s “Kill the Poor.” Their agent tries to help them (remember, this is told from the agent’s perspective), yet it is always their own stupid fault for ruining their golden opportunities. Eventually, destiny rears its ugly head. Cursi and Rudo return to their hometown with nothing to show for their short lived fame; they are complete and utter failures, back in their proper place in life – back in the grasp of poverty. However, their family finds another hero to save them from poverty…the local drug lord…
Rudo y Cursi is as traditional in structure and style as films get. Unlike Alfonso’s oeuvre, Carlos steers totally clear of stylish editing or cinematography. The only risks Carlos makes is in choosing an untrustworthy narrator and an ending that is a far cry from the typical, overtly sentimental, Hollywood dreck (in Hollywood’s hands, this film would have been complete trash). My question is: how many viewers will notice that they are watching a story told by an untrustworthy source? Carlos’s choice is bold; it also protects him from scrutiny, as the opinions of the story are not truly his, nor is the tone. Rudo y Cursi is purely a manifestation of the agent; essentially, Rudo y Cursi is a Faustian tale being told by the devil incarnate. Or is Rudo y Cursi a pungent allegory of the recent financial crisis in the United States (the agent representing the credit card banks and mortgage brokers; Rudo and Cursi representing the lower class victims who were tricked into thinking they were rich – or at least could afford a higher class’ lifestyle – but ended up in an even worse financial situation)?