“Rodeo” might need had a clearer (and catchier) title if it had been known as “Wheelie.” It’s a drama set amongst French motocross riders, who’re a bit just like the outlaw bikers of the ’60s besides that they put on cropped hair and athletic emblem T-shirts as a substitute of hippie manes and satanic leather-based jackets. And in this film, no less than, they don’t rove. They’re rooted in a desolate suburb of Paris, the place they collect to zoom alongside the highway and pop up on one wheel, which the film describes to us as a feeling of intense liberation. It certain seems that means.
Nevertheless it’s solely in matches and begins, principally in the course of the first 20 minutes, that “Rodeo” will get off on these stunts. Julia (Julie Ledru), the feral however untrained biker who joins the gravity-tweaking opponents, is the one feminine readily available, and she by no means does learn to pop a wheelie; she achieves her freedom by way of stealing. But she longs to be accepted into this brotherhood of “balls” (the phrase will get used a lot — and utilized to her as nicely), who confer with themselves because the B-Mores. They run a chop store for bikes and see her as an intruder till, after a whereas, they don’t.
How a lot of a insurgent misfit is Julia, whose household comes from Guadeloupe? She’s such a misfit that the nickname she chooses for herself is “Unknown.” The brand new-to-movies actor Julie Ledru has jutting tooth with a hole in entrance that means a sure daredevil insolence, although when she’s in repose, which is almost at all times, the look in her eye is deeply and strikingly tragic. She seems like an exotically depressed Geena Davis. We lengthy to know what shaped that face, however “Rodeo” is a film that’s all floor, all current tense, all too-cool-to-be-anything-but-French-vérité gestures. “I used to be born with a bike between my legs,” says Julie, and that’s about as shut because the movie involves character growth.
Julie has a crime that she repeats like a ritual, or perhaps an habit. She arrives on the house of a rich particular person in the countryside, who’s promoting a fancy used motorcycle, normally for round 3,000 Euro. They at all times need her to take a very restricted check drive — like, to the top of the driveway. She tentatively agrees, then hops on the bike, revs it, and fees off towards the freeway, laughing with jubilant FTW liberation, by no means to be seen by them once more. You possibly can perceive how somebody may get away with this as soon as, however since she appears to do it about each different day, the viewers has ideas like: Don’t they’ve police in France?
Lola Quivoron, the director and co-writer of “Rodeo,” makes use of Julia as a totem of downtrodden however implacable female fighter spirit. And Ledru, a biker who was found by Quivoron on Instagram, has such an intriguing presence that we wish to understand how Julia got here to be. What melted her all the way down to the purpose that she craves nothing however reckless performing out? Early biker cinema just like the “Hell’s Angels” flicks had a B-movie psychology, however “Rodeo,” no less than on the floor, is extra reasonable; the film’s racing and occasion scenes recommend somebody attempting to work in the mode of Andrea Arnold’s’s “American Honey.” It’s life-is-shallow/life-is-doom existential storytelling. But there’s nothing to the characters however their detached floor and the unruly “vitality” they often reveal beneath. So after a whereas they begin to put on you down.
There’s a biker dude named Kaïs (Yanis Lafki), who in a different-era model of this film, one the place romance existed, would have attached with the heroine. You possibly can, at occasions, really feel the ghosts of Belmondo and Seberg in “Breathless” hovering over their scenes collectively, however in keeping with the logic of as we speak, love compromises cool. In order that they merely find yourself collaborating on a theft. Julia has noticed a truck, painted electrical blue, that accommodates a cargo of KXF 2020s. Upon listening to this information, Kaïs says, “You know the way to speak to a man.” The plan is to steal these bikes, but that is no heist film. There’s no elaborate scheme, no run-up to the crime. The film devotes far more time to Julia attending to know Ophélie (performed by the movie’s cowriter, Antonia Buresi), the spouse of the gang’s imprisoned chief, in scenes which might be enervated and go nowhere.
How are they going to take these bikes? They’ll do it whereas the truck is zipping alongside at night time at 50 kilometers per hour; they’ll enter from the again. It’s like one thing you’d anticipate to see in a “Quick and Livid” movie, in which case the preposterousness can be a part of the enjoyable, however in “Rodeo” we gawk in befuddlement at a plan that’s destined to explode. (Did I point out that Julia’s enemy biker chooses the precise second in which they’re on the truck, risking their lives…to sexually assault her?) Loads blows up in “Rodeo.” It’s one other portrait of a girl on fireplace, although in this case you could simply wish to put out the flames that devour any remnant of what we thought we had been invested in.