Rust & Bones at Thomas Street Bistro

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Rustandbonewhale.png
Marion Cotillard kills it as killer whale trainer Stéphanie

The Dinner: Veggie crepe at Thomas Street Bistro (412 E. Thomas St.)

The Movie: Rust and

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Rust & Bones at Thomas Street Bistro

  • Rust & Bones at Thomas Street Bistro

  • ">

    Rustandbonewhale.png
    Marion Cotillard kills it as killer whale trainer Stéphanie

    The Dinner: Veggie crepe at Thomas Street Bistro (412 E. Thomas St.)

    The Movie: Rust and Bone at the Harvard Exit (807 E. Roy St.)

    The Screenplate: You won't catch me disputing Zero Dark Thirty's Jessica Chastain for winning best female actress in a dramatic film at the Golden Globes, but I will suggest a runner-up.

    Jacques Audiard's Rust and Bone may not have won the honor, but his actress and nominee Marion Cotillard did a brilliant job as haughty orca trainer Stéphanie, who loses both her legs in a whale-related accident during one of her shows. Although Rust and Bone begins prior to Stéphanie's leg loss, Cotillard's acting is restricted primarily to a wheelchair and, later, to the awkward movements of someone new on their prosthetic legs. That leaves much owed to her expressions: depressed, suicidal, alone, and later in love, Cotillard allows us to read Stéphanie's face like a book. It's spectacularly convincing, even without consideration to the digital removal of her legs.

    Stéphanie soon becomes emotionally dependent on Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts), a stoic kickboxer who casually brings back her confidence. Rather unsurprisingly--"to see if things still work"--the pair slides from "just friends" to ones with benefits, with Stéphanie texting Ali "Opé" (short for "operational") when she wants him to visit her apartment. While another director could have made their relationship grotesque, it is anything but--Cotillard is nothing if not sexy, although character Stéphanie becomes self-conscious of her stumps when naked.

    The physicality of their relationship is essential; Rust and Bone is endlessly kinetic. Movement and motion cross between the violent and sensual, the strokes of a swimmer replaced with those of a boxer, or a lover. What's more, since his last movie (2009's Oscar-nominated A Prophet) Audiard has learned strict control of pace. Where A Prophet could have benefited from being cut by, oh, 45 minutes, not a scene in Rust and Bone is wasted. In any other hands, Cotillard swimming through sparkles of sunlight on the ocean, or conducting orcas in her imagination by throwing her arms about to Katy Perry's "Firework," would be indulgent. Rather, Cotillard and Audiard create something not only visually stunning, but vast in emotional depth.

    "Vast in emotional depth?" Sounds very French, perhaps, but don't let that turn you off. Simply categorizing Rust and Bone as a "French movie" is going to give you the wrong impression. And while we're on the subject--don't get the wrong impression about the dinner I paired with it, either.

    Thomas Street Bistro's got something of a bad rap. While The Stranger wrote a scathing review of the bistro (and then took it back...and then defended it again), their food isn't bad so much as not what you'd expect from a meal out. In fact, in almost every way Thomas Street Bistro is like eating in somebody's living room. Located a few blocks off Broadway, its entrance sits under apartment buildings and trees, so shadowed and tiny that you're bound to walk right past it. The inside is no bigger than the outside suggests: There are, I believe, only six tables, the room so cramped that my date and I actually became engrossed in our neighbor's conversation for lack of physical distance. The patrons somehow all seemed to know each other, shouting French and Spanish across the room.

    My date and I were seated immediately upon walking in and brought two bowls of vegetable soup before I had even finished removing my coat. Generous with the salt, the soup itself was no more exciting than something you could be eating in your own living room from a can--but no worse, either. After clearing our bowls, the waiter explained that Thomas Street Bistro uses a $15 pre fixe for four courses. That meant our soup was to be followed by an appetizer, entree and dessert.

    Although we had allowed over an hour for our meal and had been seated immediately, the waiter didn't take our order for almost 20 minutes, and the food took even longer to arrive. My vegetarian crepe was, like the soup, something I could have thrown together at home and in much less time. Full of cheese, onions and tomatoes, the only real surprise were the peppers that garnished the top.

    We ended up having to skip dessert in order to rush to make our show. Paying $15 each for soup and a crepe, there still hung a pervasive sense that something was missing. Only after we'd walked out the door did we realize that we'd never received our appetizers.

    Rust and Bone, alternatively, never feels like something is missing. However, just as Thomas Street Bistro did, the film has its faults, and those exist where faults never should--in the conclusion. Rust and Bone succumbs to an icy cliche and has a lackluster voice-over to close with, while some cheesy Bon Iver/slow-motion stuff goes on in the background. It's weak, as is the parallel plot concerning Ali and his son--although Ali's ultimate moral reconstructions are not so simple as they might unintentionally come across as being.

    I suggest thinking twice about Thomas Street when you could prepare your own French soup and crepe identically at home. But Rust and Bone should not be missed.

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