The devil himself couldn’t have drawn up a better scheme. The Verdusco brothers work at a banana plantation in rural Mexico and dream of someday leaving their village behind for a better life. Beto is a tough soccer goalie who fantasizes about making the big time, Tato envisions a life of music. One day while playing soccer, a mysterious man named Batuta (Guillermo Francella) arrives in a red corvette and offers them the chance to get out. Under one condition: One brother must shoot a goal against the other, and whoever succeeds will get a spot on a prestigious team in Mexico City. It’s brother against brother for control over their destinies. Or is Batuta controlling them?
Such is the parable of Rudo y Cursi, the first offering from the production company of some of Spanish-language cinema’s finest directors: Alfonso Cuarón (Y tu Mamá También, Children of Men), Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth), and Alejandro González Iñárritu (Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel). Its creative contributors—all notable figures in Spanish-language cinema—make it a heavyweight of a film, written and directed by Carlos Cuarón (who penned the Oscar nominated screenplay for his brother’s film) and reuniting Diego Luna as “Rudo” the tough goalie and Gael García Bernal as accordion-playing Tato.
As brothers, the actors bring their onscreen relationship from Y tu Mamá También to another level. On the surface they have become men, but underneath it all they still try to hold on to the dreams of their youth. Luna plays a father and husband living in an extremely modest home, where he occupies himself with a 1980s soccer arcade game. Bernal’s character sits outside the local bar serenading chicas with his accordion skills and longs to move to Texas. When they are faced with the soccer showdown, Rudo tells Tato to miss the goal, but due to some comic miscommunication, Tato wins and moves to the city to play soccer and get a record deal, too. His cheesy videos earn him the name “Cursi,” or “corny.”
Like the respected directors behind-the-scenes, the story gleans elements from each of their styles.The Cuarón brothers offer up the witty repartee; from del Toro it takes the twisted fairy tale structure; and it borrows Iñárritu’s philosophy of interconnectedness and violence. It is the American Dream, Mexican-style. As in America, sports and music are considered ways to advance in social class—the brothers just need to be found by the right person. Rudo and Cursi hope for the same, but when it happens, they get more than they bargained for. Like the real American Dream, nothing ever goes according to plan, but it is enjoyable to watch as the brothers battle it out on the soccer field and in their everyday lives.
Bernal steals the show, playing almost a caricature of himself: a Mexican heartthrob. Bernal’s singing career makes for some particularly hilarious moments of regional music videos and his (actually kind of good) cover of Cheap Trick’s “I Want You To Want Me.” While the film does not reach the visual beauty or the rich narrative of Y tu Mamá También, it is a (relatively) lighthearted look at destiny, chance, and how every dream comes a with a curse and a blessing in disguise.
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