Rudo y Cursi, the debut film by Carlos Cuarón, has a bit of everything. Comedy, drama, satire, nostalgia, sports, music, city, country, tits, ass—all you could ever want, really. The first film produced under the Cha Cha Cha shingle—the union of Mexico’s cuddly auteurist trinity Alfonso Cuarón, Guillermo del Toro, and Alejandro González Iñárritu—Rudo y Cursi is an eager-to-please, mainstream entertainment machine. But as in a well oiled, whirring contraption that skips a gear, the moving parts never click into a working film. Tap on it and it topples.
Tato (Gael García Bernal) and Beto (Diego Luna) are brothers who work at a banana plantation while dreaming of better days. Tato (the cursi, or “corny,” one), single and superficial, plays a wheezing accordion and aspires to a career in music. Beto (the rudo, or “tough,” one) is married with children, but he hopes to play professional soccer. When a greasy talent scout happens upon a local match, he’s impressed by both striker Tato and goalie Beto, but only has one contract to offer. The brothers face off in a penalty shoot-out that sends Tato to Mexico City and Beto—the superior player—back to the banana plantation. But as Tato squanders his success on star-fucking and pop desperation (his cover of Cheap Trick’s “I Want You To Want Me” is spectacularly awful), Beto hustles his way up through the ranks, eventually becoming the country’s top goalie. One rises, the other falls, they switch places and then face off again for another shoot-out with everything on the line, and so on, the story rounding into neat symmetrical shape. Cuarón’s 21st-century parable shares with its religious and secular models a strict, unsparing morality and a beeline passage to the inevitable. But unlike Cain and Abel, Cuarón’s characters are equally, if differently, monstrous.
Click here to read the rest of Eric Hynes’s review of Rudo y Cursi.