A review of “Rudo y Cursi” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: *** 1/2

Rating: R for profanity, brief violence and nudity

Run Time: 1 hour, 43 minutes. In Spanish with English subtitles

 

 

Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal rekindle their infamous chemistry (“Y Tu Mamá También”) in this charming cautionary fable of futbol playing brothers who go south with a vengeance.

Beto and Tato Verdusco are living life on the edge in rural Mexico, toiling at a local banana plantation and struggling to make ends meet. Beto (Luna) is an idealistic hothead making endless promises to his fed-up wife and kids. Tato (Bernal) is the charismatic clown – a happy gadabout living one day at a time in clueless obscurity.

In true fairy-tale fashion an eager scout (Guillermo Francela) turns up at the ubiquitous dirt pitch where the boys take out their physical frustrations on the futbol frenzied locals. He offers Tato a tryout with a professional team – while negotiating an outrageous finder’s fee – and somehow Tato makes the cut.

But all is not a bed of roses as Tato is grossly ill-equipped to deal with fame, fortune and the fickle nature of the professional futbol circuit.

Beto, consumed with jealousy over Tato’s mercurial celebrity, leaves his family on a lark to make the rival team’s starting lineup as their beloved keeper. Now it’s mano-a mano family-style, sans the brotherly love.

Luna and Bernal – friends on and off the screen – demonstrate congenial competitive rhythms as they navigate the sticky wickets of taut familial bonds and the inevitable fallout of too much too soon. Tato’s trajectory is painfully amusing as he pursues a sideline singing career (ouch!) and hooks up with the fantasy actress who devours freshly minted big shots.

Carlos Cuarón’s debut film feels far more assured than it should, likely owing to the influence (and collaboration) of big brother Alfonso who has helmed such cinematic classics (and personal favorites) as “A Little Princess” and “Children of Men” as well as the brazen “Mamá”.

Naturally the climactic showdown is an emotional minefield fraught with the pitfalls of the white hot spotlight – bittersweet battling with cliché – but “Rudo” never loses touch with its smart core of integrity and humor.