directed by Ron Howard
Racing? Racing is stupid. No, I'm not seeing that.
-my wife, when I asked her if she wanted to see Rush with me.
About a month ago, a trailer for Ron Howard’s Rush came on television whilst I was hanging out with my brother, DC. We both admitted we wanted to see the movie, but I said that Rush didn’t seem like Ron Howard’s style of film. It immediately occurred to me that I didn’t know what Ron Howard’s style of filmmaking actually was, even after all these years. DC and I puzzled over this for a few minutes, then promptly moved on to discussing the merits of the newest Mountain Dew commercial campaign (I love them, btw). Last week, an excellent article from the newly formed film source The Dissolve delved into this concept more thoroughly, but it doesn't make it any less peculiar that a filmmaker so prominent and so well known as Ron Howard (and with such a long and successful filmmaking career) could have such a non-style. That may be a topic for any entirely different discussion, but my initial fear proved right to some extent. While I enjoyed many elements of Howard’s high octane, sexy biopic chronicling the exploits of rival Formula 1 racers James Hunt and Niki Lauda, I had a hard time with various elements that I would consider outside of Howard’s wheelhouse. Perhaps topping the “Items outside of Howard’s wheelhouse” list would be sexiness, and I will cite some of Howard’s best films as evidence to support: Cinderella Man, Apollo 13, Parenthood. Howard seems to be at his best when telling the story of mankind striving to improve, to achieve, and Rush certainly has this in spades (which is a strength), but Howard’s approach to Hunt’s romantic exploits, and the Lauda “honeymoon” sequence in particular seem awkward and forced. Perhaps Howard was trying to do something new, or perhaps he wanted his racing movie to hit on all cylinders, á la Days of Thunder, but his arrow missed the mark. A movie like Rush is practically ready-made for this kind of thing (hell, it’s in the title for shit’s sake); the daring, reckless sport of auto racing and the men who face death every day. These men live with a kind of verve unique to their profession, and thusly their passions should be as intense as their driving. I get it, but in Howard’s hands it doesn't work. Even another good Howard film, Backdraft, deals with this broad concept (substituting auto racers for firefighters), but the restraint shown in Backdraft works to its advantage. I am making much of this element, however, when it isn't the front running theme of the film. The acting is top notch from both Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl, as is the amazing cinematography of Antony Dod Mantle and the scorching sound design. I really enjoyed the relationship between the two titans as they battle for supremacy across the globe, and I identified with each at different points (thank you, Mr Howard). Rush is a win for Howard and a much needed source of quality during the doldrums of September and October, but I had secretly hoped for more. I am a eternally a sucker for a good racing movie (though I loathe actually watching auto racing on television), and Rush was a fine addition to that canon.