Marion Cotillard's performance is the best thing about RUST AND BONE, an exasperating, over praised film about the relationship between a disabled woman and a back alley fighter.
Unfortunately, RUST AND BONE is a contrived melodrama with a trumped up, sentimental ending.
Cotillard plays Stephanie, a trainer of whales who in a terrible accident loses both her legs below the knee.(In the clips released for television, there are no shots of Stephanie without her legs, but thanks to digital magic there are plenty such shots in the actual movie.)
Were it not for her sudden disability, Stephanie would have no interest at all in Alain, a bouncer and bare knuckle fighter who sleeps with any attractive woman who's willing.
He's curious about her sexuality after the accident when she talks wistfully about her past and says she doesn't know if she can have sex any more.
But of course, she can and before long they've done the deed. Afterwards, he's indifferent, saying she can call him and when he's free, he'll come over for another experience. She's a little upset, because going to bed with Alain was a lot more than casual for her.
But though he's friendly, he obviously doesn't consider her more than just another conquest. In fact, Alain abandons Stephanie in a club one night to go home with another woman. The next day, the jilted Stephanie is hurt and angry. She confronts him and even though his response is not positive, somehow she still sees humanity in this selfish lug.
Even though the movie exasperated me, I have to admit that the acting is excellent and that some of the individual scenes feel unique as this unlikely pair gets more deeply involved. But I finally had to stop suspending my disbelief when Stephanie begins to actively support Alain's back alley fighting to make some extra money.
And what really disappointed me was a second melodramatic accident near the end which seemingly transforms the brutish Alain into a caring human. It all feels so contrived.
Terry Hunter e mail: thunter@hawaiinewsnow