RUST AND BONE
DIRECTED BY Jacques Audiard
STARS Marion Cotillard, Matthias Schoenaerts
Like a carnival barker or presidential candidate, the French release Rust and Bone promises far more than it delivers. Marion Cotillard, one of the best actresses on today's international scene, stars as Stephanie, a whale trainer who loses her legs in a gruesome on-the-job accident. Drained of all life and wallowing in self-pity, she only perks up after entering into a friends-with-benefits relationship with Alain (Matthias Schoenaerts), a single dad drifting from job to job. It sounds like the template for a maudlin melodrama, but right from the start, it's clear that Jacques Audiard, the writer-director of the prison yarn A Prophet, will approach this story in a similarly hard-hitting style. Unfortunately, Audiard abandons the most interesting character, Stephanie, for long stretches of the movie, choosing instead to focus on the far less compelling Alain. This decision not only forces us to hang around with a boorish protagonist, it also doesn't allow Stephanie enough screen time to register as much more than a woman who measures her own worth by how much she's able to sexually arouse a man who, frankly, doesn't deserve her. Rust and Bone is supposed to be a tale about two individuals who save each other, but in the final analysis, it appears that the audience isn't the only one who gets a raw deal.
(To see Matt Brunson's lists of the Best & Worst Movies of 2012, go here.)