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Rudo Y Cursi

Not surprisingly for a film that reunited the stars of Y Tu Mamá También, the movie that kicked off the international resurgence of Mexican cinema in the last decade, Rudo y Cursi was a huge hit in Mexico. It was written and directed by Carlos Cuarón, who also wrote Y Tu Mamá and whose brother Alfonso is one of the three top Mexican filmmakers (with Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Guillermo del Toro) who recently formed Cha Cha Cha films in order to consolidate their successes into a future for Mexican cinema.

All of which is more interesting to cineastes and film historians than this actual film may be to North American audiences. A sports story without a lot of actual sports, it charts the rise of two half brothers from life on a rural banana plantation to stardom in Mexico’s soccer stadiums. Younger brother Tato (Gael Garcia Bernal) wants to leave town to seek success as a singer (lack of talent nothwithstanding), while Beto (Diego Luna) is uncomfortably settling into a long-term career as a plantation foreman, the better to support his wife and kids, not to mention his gambling habit. Their abilities in a local soccer match are spotted by a talent scout whose car breaks down in between stops. (He is played by Argentine star Guillermo Francella with some of the satanic glee that Rip Torn used to bring to The Larry Saunders Show).

Rudo y Cursi (“Rude” and “Corny,” the professional nicknames the two are given to match their personalities) is at its best when detailing the unglamorous side of Mexican soccer, which for the first half of the movie seems to be everything about it. Playing on different teams, they are subjected to nasty hazing and put in housing that isn’t a whole lot better than they dusty rural home. Cuarón devotes so much interest to this that he neglects to properly chart the brothers’ rise to success, and it’s a bit of a surprise to find out that they aren’t simply being strung along by their sleazy manager. Of course every success story must have its downfall, culminating in a soccer match as it might have been filmed by Sergio Leone, with the brothers facing off against each other for very high stakes.

It’s not that Rudo y Cursi avoids clichés, but that it doesn’t go for the clichés we expect in sports movies. If it depends too much on satirizing Mexican culture to have full effect for non-Mexican viewers, it’s a slick enough story to satisfy fans of its two stars.

m. faust

Watch the trailer for Rudo Y Cursi

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