Rubber seems to have a more interesting concept than its creator/director, Quentin Dupieux, seems to acknowledge throughout the film. The idea of a sentient tire with psychokinetic abilities that can cause people to explode is fun for unabashed fans of the absurd. Unfortunately, in its 82 minute running time, it’s not allowed to be just that.
The film begins with an introduction by Lieutenant Chad. He explains that some of the greatest films in history feature elements of “no reason.” Why was E.T. brown? Why was the titular Pianist a bum? Why was JFK in JFK shot by a complete stranger? Chad poses these questions and answers them with “no reason.” This sets up the idea that the rest of this movie happens for now reason.
And if the rest of the movie were just about the tire, then that would be fine. But the movie is set in some sort of framing device consisting of an audience viewing the tire’s antics from afar. They comment on the movie, and then Chad will explain to viewers as well as his fellow police officers that this is a movie without reason – until he decides to be part of the action. This draws attention away from the tire, which I have to admit showed much more character than anyone else in the film.
It’s clear the presence of the framing device is for the comfort of the director. He can step back and say, “I’m making an absolutely stupid movie, but these scenes show the self-awareness of an intellectual.” Sometimes the scenes are just silly, and other times the scenes are pretentious. This is proof that Dupieux doesn’t know what he’s doing with movies.
But he’s great at imagining them! This is a wonderful movie for anyone who for one second thinks that a killer tire might be funny – and even funnier when the tire is killed and immediately reincarnated as a tricycle. That takes a particular (and peculiar) sort of person, but there’s a niche audience there. Try it out.
Oh, and while you’re at it, someone should make a special edit of the movie that contains only tire scenes. We’ll say that one’s for purists.