Sprint, don’t run, to see Rudo y Cursi, my favorite movie of the year so far, and a real contender for the title, “This year’s Slumdog Millionaire!” I missed it at Sundance but caught it Friday night and it really knocked my socks off.
Reuniting many players from the team that gave us Y tu mamá también, including the leads Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna, Rudo y Cursi tells the story of two brothers, Tato (Bernal) and Beto (Luna), poor banana-pickers in a backwater Mexican town. When a sports agent comes rolls in, he discovers them playing in a local pick-up game and recruits them to come to Mexico City to play in the big leagues.
Tato begins a meteoric rise as a star forward, and his sweet face earns him the nickname “Cursi” (romantic). Beto is more of a slow starter. He’s a goalie who brooks no dissent, and who isn’t afraid to get physical, earning him the nickname, “Rudo” (rough). As Tato gets distracted by dating t.v. stars and making cheesy music videos, Beto begins what could be a record streak of perfect goalkeeping. It will all come down to a showdown between the two brothers: will Tato break his losing streak by ending Beto’s winning streak? It’s more complicated than that, because the movie has done a good job of showing the corruption behind the scenes of big-money soccer. What if Beto wanted his streak to end, so he could get out of a gambling debt? What if Tato wanted to miss a key penalty kick, as a way to repair a rift between him and his brother?
The movie manages to have a satisfying ending, but not in a way I ever expected. It’s a great story, full dramatic scenes, fun characters and sharply-observed details, all held together by the poetic narration you’d expect from Carlos Cuarón (also the screenwriter of Y tu mamá). Think of it as a sort of Mexican Jerry Maguire. I really loved this movie!