Many low-budget films strive to be genuinely offbeat with stories, characters and situations that just aren't ready for big-studio treatment. Perhaps because it doesn't strive, RUBIN & ED, a shaggy dog buddy-buddy comedy, singularly succeeds in being genuinely quirky fun. Rubin Farr (Crispin Glover) lives in a motel managed by his mother, where he mostly...read more
Many low-budget films strive to be genuinely offbeat with stories, characters and situations that just aren't ready for big-studio treatment. Perhaps because it doesn't strive, RUBIN & ED, a shaggy dog buddy-buddy comedy, singularly succeeds in being genuinely quirky fun.
Rubin Farr (Crispin Glover) lives in a motel managed by his mother, where he mostly stays in his room listening to music, dreaming of a love affair with a bikini poster pinup girl (Brittnew Lewis) and mourning the death of his cat, whose corpse he is keeping in the freezer until he can find the
right spot to bury it. Ed Tuttle (Howard Hesseman), meanwhile, is a would-be yuppie without style, smarts or slickness who works for real estate guru Mr. Busta (Michael Greene) as a recruiter for Busta's $3,000 "seminars." They are brought together when Rubin's mom orders him out of his room to
face the world and make a friend he can bring home for dinner.
However, the world may never be ready to face Rubin, who, in his undersized polyester disco-nerd outfit, accented by platform shoes that become handy defensive weapons in tight spots, inspires fear, loathing and, mostly, ridicule. Ed, of course, sees raw material for real-estate success in Rubin
while the latter sees in the former the dinner guest he needs to placate his mom. When Rubin's mom is late for dinner, Rubin decides that it would be a good time to bury his cat in the Utah desert, where he and Ed head after Rubin commandeers Ed's car, which is actually on loan from Mr. Busta.
In the desert, Busta's car breaks down and Rubin and Ed separate over a disagreement on where the nearest town is. Ed is attacked by ants and returns to the car, which he repairs and decides to drive back after learning that Busta has reported the car stolen. Rubin, meanwhile, knocks himself
unconscious while exploring a cave and dreams of being the King of the Echo People. As king, he owns the world's biggest platform shoes and enjoys an inner-tube float on a placid lake while his cat goes water-skiing behind a boat piloted by Rubin's dream girl. His reverie is disrupted by Ed, who
has returned to find him after an attack of conscience.
They return to Busta's headquarters just long enough for Rubin to disrupt the seminar by announcing his new regal status. Busta gives chase only to collide, literally, with police intent on arresting him for stealing his own car, leaving Rubin and Ed to wander down a dark alley and argue, as they
have throughout the film, over which of them is the bigger failure.
RUBIN & ED is a warm, funny and well-crafted celebration of eccentricity with terrific performances from Glover and Hesseman, who could easily be the perfect comedy duo for the post-modern age.
While not sacrificing an iota of Rubin's weirdness, Glover plays him with a dead-shot comic sureness, demonstrating admirable restraint and discipline. Hesseman similarly scores comic points with Ed by keying in on the character's humanity while letting his own buttoned-down weirdness speak for
itself. The odd moments when he parrots the inspirational ravings of his guru, in particular, are blissful moments of comic inspiration, and the rapport he establishes with Glover goes a long way toward making the film enjoyable. Both are extremely well served by writer-director Trent Harris who
maintains an easy mood of lunacy throughout. Harris's ability to get the best from his actors is readily apparent in the lead performances, but the real bonus comes with Karen Black, as Ed's shrewish, materialistic ex-wife, who is funnier and much more attractively photographed here than she has
been in a while.
Throw in the remaining perks like Frederic Myrow's wryly funny electronic music score and Bryan Duggan's unpretentiously expressive cinematography on locations in Salt Lake City and surrounding environs and the sum total is one of those increasingly rare cases that make wandering through the
wilderness of alternative cinema worthwhile. (Mild profanity.)
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