Rubbeldiekatz (2011) Woman In Love
Director: Detlev Buck
Cast: Matthias Schweighöfer, Alexandra Maria Lara, Detlev Buck, Maximilian Brückner, Denis Moschitto, Max von Thun, Max Giermann, Sunnyi Melles, Susanne Bormann, Milan Peschel, Joachim Meyerhoff, Katharina Marie Schubert, Palina Rojinski, Guido Maria Kretschme.
Plot: The young struggling actor Alexander Honk finds it very hard to make ends meet, living with his two brothers and his friend Jan in an apartment in Berlin, while he is trying to find the right part that will boost his acting career.
The story is set in Berlin as we meet the young, broke actor Alexander Honk (Matthias Schweighöfer) who is helped by his two brothers Jürgen (Detlev Buck) and Basti (Maximilian Brückner), and his friend Jan (Denis Moschitto), to land new roles which are barely enough to get the family by.
Since Alex normally plays a woman in a Theatre Company, Jürgen (his brother and manager of sorts) sets up an audition for him to play the part of Maria Schneider in a new Hollywood film about Nazi Germany. Alex is at first angry that he has to play yet another female role, but since they all need the money, he accepts Jürgen’s plan and auditions for the role under the pseudonym of Alexandra Honk. He dresses as a woman and starts to ‘act the part’.
Getting the part as Maria Schneider proves to be more complicated than Alex expected when he realises he has to work with the famous actress Sarah Voss, who plays Maria’s lover – the plot of the Hollywood blockbuster revolves around a lesbian relationship between the two female leads. Alex keeps up the pretence, which makes things a bit difficult for him since he has to pretend to be a heterosexual woman on the film set while he’s actually falling in love with his acting partner both in real-life and as his character. All the while Sarah is completely in the dark about his real identity, so she is actually convinced that Alex is a woman. This misunderstanding provides most of the comic incidents within the story.
The film within the film – the Hollywood blockbuster Alex is acting in as Maria Schneider – is very amusing and this structure of ‘the play within the play’ is a concept that has been already attempted with varied success in the film industry – see the American comedy Tootsie (1982) starring Dustin Hoffman or Hail, Ceasar! from the Coen Brothers – and I think it was played out well by the director in this instance. Reality and fiction merge, and the characters in the ‘story within the story’ are often influenced by events happening to the actors (being played by actors) that interpret them. For example, the leading actor Thomas Henning (Max Von Thun) – who plays Maria’s husband – becomes Alex’s rival in winning Sarah’s affections off set, and this rivalry is reflected in their exchanges on set.
The film within the film seems almost a parody of itself, as if it is not to be taken seriously with the characters acting over the top and improvising way too often. As a result ‘the scenes within the scenes’ are very funny and amusing to watch. Hitler’s interpreter Jörg – played by Max Giermann – is particularly ludicrous since he tells his fellow actors that he has already played Hitler three times and he seems to mix reality with fiction as a result – but again, in the spirit of the film, that was quite funny to watch, although it may seem too much at times.
Even though the film runs for more than an hour and a half, everything seemed a bit rushed: Alex and Jörg’s awkward double date with Sarah and Thomas, as well as Sarah and Alex’s relationship development could have been explored a little more. It was quite heart-breaking to see Alex remembering Sarah, while going to the place they first met and consequently getting sad thinking about their relationship. Even though time passes by, Alex remains deeply in love with Sarah. This is very strange since, apart from having a one night stand together, the two of them didn’t spend much time hanging out – we see them going out while filming but it wasn’t enough to know someone well enough to be so heartbroken for several months.
The acting was convincing enough even though it didn’t require much effort from the actors since most of them just had to ‘act as actors’. I liked Alexandra Maria Lara’s performance as the ice-queen who proves to be actually very sensitive, awkward and in search of a ‘real-life’ serious relationship. Contrary to appearances, she is not at all a shallow Queen Bee. Matthias Schweighoefer, who plays the male lead Alex/Alexandra, is on safe ground here as he does what he does best: a comedy role to which he is perfectly suited. The typical stereotype of Hollywood’s vision of Germany and Germans was particularly interesting to watch, although it is carried a bit too far and becomes a parody of itself in the ‘film within the film’, lessening the impact of the commentary.
I know German comedy films are usually very romantic, but sometimes, as in this instance, they come across as a bit unrealistic – they are clearly feel-good films. In this story there are laugh-out-loud moments and the happy ending we all crave in rom-coms, so in the end, despite its faults, it is a lively and funny film to watch on a quiet and frosty evening by the fire.