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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Rudo y Cursi

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Mexican soccer as a topic does not interest me, nor is it something I can even pretend to comprehend with any sort of authority, but this film, about the titular brothers who each star on opposing teams has an absurd comedic element coursing through its subtitled length that will suck the viewer in with the power of a vacuum cleaner.

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Rudo y Cursi

Working on a banana plantation and living with their mother, her large brood from a variety of men, and her current abusive boyfriend, Tato Verdusco (Gael García Bernal) and  his brother Beto (Diego Luna) toil in the fields of Jalisco, Mexico and play fútbol (soccer) with friends after work.  This is the place where they are happiest, and it is apparent in their natural talent for the game.

They are discovered by slick, red-sports car-driving Batuta (Guillermo Francella) who can only take one of the brothers back with him to Mexico City.  Tato gets the chance of a lifetime.  He’s single and wants to be a singer despite his athletic prowess.  The married Beto stays behind, in constant trouble with wife Toña (Adriana Paz) for his gambling.  An ongoing fight features the refrain “I want my blender back.”  Beto can only shrug and make empty promises.

Meanwhile, Tato discovers that the life of a rookie involves hazing (read locker room shower scene) and limited playing time.  He perseveres and becomes a popular enough player to be awarded a singing contract.  He promptly remakes an unintentionally hilarious version of Cheap Trick’s I Want You to Want Me.  His new girlfriend, spokesmodel Maya Vega (Jessica Mas) quickly gets her hooks into the new superstar, now nicknamed “Cursi” (corny) because of his campy singing.

Batuta comes back to the village for Beto, who sneaks off with him despite Toña’s disapproval.  He signs with a rival team and acquires the nickname “Rudo” because he’s tough.  The brothers become competitive, but live in the same mansion.

Both brothers want to be the one to build their mother her dream house on the beach.  This is accomplished only when the brothers’ younger sister marries a wealthy and powerful drug lord who beats them to it.  Rudo and Cursi it seems are too busy arguing to ever get the project started.

The brothers’ popularity peaks and begins to decline in different ways.  Beto gets into severe gambling debt and Tato loses his athletic prowess as his love life with the shallow Maya Vega deteriorates.

A championship game pits the two brothers against each other in a showdown that involves family honor versus shady betting practices initiated by former mentor Batuta.  What follows is a cautionary tale about sudden wealth and fame, excesses, shallow allegiances and the abrupt way that all of it can change.  The ending carries a surprising and ironic twist for both brothers.

Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna resonate as the brothers who could have invented the phrase, “mom liked you best.”  Both are adept at trying to disguise insecurities while actually highlighting them.

Guillermo Francella’s Batuta is persuasively seductive as the guy who discovers new talent and hitches a lucrative ride on it for awhile.  Adriana Paz and Jessica Mas portray two very different women, each with her own motivations and objectives, providing polar opposites as if they were the goal posts on each end of the field.

Writer/director Carlos Cuarón (Y Tu Mamá También) reunites Bernal and Luna from that film, and highlights their easy compatibility while competing, resenting, and misunderstanding each other.  Love, loyalty, humor and absurdity are factored in and the randy script, full of expletives, gives the sense of a friendly though simmering rivalry that vivaciously jumps off the screen.

Rudo Y Cursi is an engaging foray into soccer fandom, family loyalty, and easily co-opted values.  It illustrates what can happen when the world is at your feet like a black and white ball, and all you can think to do is kick it away from you.

In Spanish with English subtitles