Rudo y Cursi (2008)
★★★ / ★★★★
“Rudo y Cursi” stars Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna as brothers who started off as workers in a banana plantation and, with the help of a soccer scout (Guillermo Francella), eventually became Mexico’s soccer stars. One of the things I liked most about this movie was it allowed two very different characters to start off in the same level of happiness (or unhappiness). But when they finally achieved stardom, they were rarely on that same level and that caused tension, resentment, and bitterness which ate them inside out. But what’s even more impressive is that writer and director Carlos Cuarón painted the picture in a light-hearted manner with a real sadness in its core. It was easy for me to buy the fact that Bernal and Luna were very competitive brothers because of their lingering chemistry from “Y tu mamá también.” Although their characters genuinely loved one another, they forget that one time or another because they constantly got caught up in their own problems and inner demons. Such issues were commented on by the narrator who discussed things like the similarities and differences between a mother and a uniform, passion and talent, and the labyrinthine world of fame. The way their luck and fortunes fluctuated from golden fevers to pitiful desperation engaged me throughout. This is far from a typical sports film where a lead character goes through all kinds fo hardship in life and finally gets that big break. It’s really more about the dynamics between brothers who constantly had to build themselves up and could not help but compare themselves to each other in order to determine if they were good enough. (Which kind of works as a cautionary tale.) Carlos Cuarón’s debut film impresses on many levels which, admittedly, could have been a lot stronger if it had a better sense of pacing. I was just glad that it actually had a brain despite the sport.
The Curiosity of Chance (2008)
★★★ / ★★★★
Tad Hilgenbrink stars as Chance Marquis, an openly gay high school student in an international school somewhere in Europe with an interesting fashion sense. Since he sticks out in a negative way, he was ostacized by his peers and some of the soccer jocks (led by Maxim Maes) actively bullied him every day. At first I had a difficult time accepting that Hilgenbrink would be at the bottom of the high school food chain simply for being gay and dressing funny because of his model-like good looks which really reminded me of a fusion between James Marsden (Hilgenbrink played Cyclops in “Epic Movie”) and Seann William Scott (Hilgenbrink also played Stiffler in “American Pie Presents Band Camp”). But then I really got into his character because not only did he try so hard to be different by talking like he has a thesaurus next to him (which reminded me of how I talked sometimes in high school), he really did have problems that are painful with regards to his identity. This was highlighted during his scenes with his father (Chris Mulkey) who is in the military; even though they get along somewhat swimmingly, there was that wall between father and son that I desperately hoped would break by the time the film ended. Instead of the obligatory silly scenes such as sneaking into the principal’s office, I wish the Hilgenbrink and Mulkey had more scenes together even though the whole strained father-son relationship had been explored too many times in LGBT movies. I also liked the (non-romantic) relationship between the lead character and one of the nicer soccer jocks (Brett Chuckerman). He was a foil for Chance’ character because he was socially accepted but he was also struggling to find his own identity regarding sports versus music. There were also some genuinely funny scenes with Hilgenbrink’s friends played by the sarcastic/scathing Aldevina Da Silva and the naive/nerdy Pieter Van Nieuwenhuyze. They needed more character development instead of merely being stereotypes but considering what they were given to play, I think they did a good job. “The Curiosity of Chance,” written and directed by Russell P. Marleau, reminded me of a weaker version of “Get Real” (the whole bit about the homosexual and the friendly jock minus the romance) and it had enough wit and daring scenes (involving drag queens) to get me to recommend it. It’s not perfect by any means because I thought it needed to spend more time in the editing room, but I definitely laughed with it. I loved Chance’ fantasy scenes; I can’t help but smile just thinking about them.