There is nothing like the bond between brothers and there could be no better screen brothers than Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna in the Mexican soccer comedy, “Rudo y Cursi”. They may have only really made one film together prior to this one (that being “Y tu mamá también”), but the two understated actors have such a great camaraderie together on screen that it seems only natural that they be paired up as often as possible. Last time out, Bernal and Luna played best friends that crossed a certain line most bromances never do. This time out, they return and reunite with the co-writer of “Y tu mamá también”, Carlos Cuarón, who wrote that film with and his brother Alfonso. As brothers, there is no line to even consider crossing so all we’re left with is brotherly love – from the comfort and confidence that only brothers can share to the intense competition that only brothers know better.
“Rudo y Cursi” translates to “rough and corny”. Luna is Rudo and Bernal is Cursi, despite both actors’ pleas to Cuarón that they each felt more closely related to the other character. Cuarón, Carlos that is, cast them in the opposite roles for exactly this reason. These brothers have grown up in shacks and both have big dreams of living well someday. They run their daily game in the banana fields and their weekend games on the soccer field, where they are both discovered by wily talent coach, Batuta (Guillermo Francella). The trouble is, he can only bring one of the two to the big leagues and a penalty shot decides that Cursi will be joining. Rudo ends up going as well later but the damage has been done. The two are forced to live with each other and play against each other while the public eats them up and they fall prey to the pratfalls of a fast paced life in Mexico City. Their sincerity never leaves them though and it is their small town sensibility that gets them through their troubles even though it is arguably what got them there to begin with.
Cuarón stepped up his role from writer on “Y tu mamá también” to writer/director for “Rudo y Cursi”, and his transition is a pretty run across the field. His decisions are sometimes questionable but they are always consciously being made and appreciated. The most peculiar of his decisions is not including that much footage of Rudo, Cursi or anyone else for that matter actually playing soccer. We don’t see the game that got them noticed; we don’t see the goals that got them famous. Instead, soccer becomes this mythical place where they are both gods and we get them when they are away from where they excel and are revered. In other words, we get to see them when they’re just trying to make it all work. In doing so, Cuarón may alienate people expecting a straightforward sports film but he grounds the brothers and the movie by tying them closer to the people off the field instead. And even though we cannot see it, we know Cuarón made the goal.
Review by Joseph Bélanger