The Austin Chronicle


Not rated, 105 min. Directed by Lola Quivoron. Starring Julie Ledru, Antonia Buresi, Cody Schroeder, Dave Nsaman.

REVIEWED By Alejandra Martinez, Fri., March 24, 2023

Gasoline wafting up from hot pavement and the low growl of a motorbike engine are the first things that come to mind when thinking of Rodeo. Director Lola Quivoron’s latest film is tactile, focused on Julia (Ledru), a girl who has one aim in life: tearing it up on the open road. Rodeo is a moody, chaotic character study: at once engaging and mysterious, letting the viewer get a sense of Julia and her unpredictable nature without any straightforward answers.

In the male-dominated motorbike world, Julia is an outsider, but hungry to ride no matter the cost. She hopes that she can work her way into the bike club she is on the fringes of one day, even if they mostly ignore her. In one of her first scenes, she steals a bike from a man who unwittingly thinks this is a sale. As she rides away, dust trailing behind her, she flips him off. It’s frankly cool as hell, and a succinct, near-perfect encapsulation of Julia’s character – or at least what she projects.

She can be soft, too. There’s tenderness in the second half of the film between Julia and Ophélie (Buresi), the wife of the bike club’s incarcerated boss, as well as their son, Kylian (Schroeder). Julia is also haunted by the accident of a friend from the bike club, Abra (Nsaman). Abra is one of the only guys in the club who was kind to Julia instead of simply being ambivalent or cruel. His accident will haunt her and echo her fate as well. As Julia leverages her skills in swiping bikes to gain the respect of the club, the group plans a heist. Meanwhile, she’ll have to contend with vicious misogyny as well as her own reckless desires.

Rodeo is engaging and gritty, but what makes the whole film hold together overall is Ledru. She gives gives Julia a real presence and believability that isn’t always made explicit through the narrative. Where the film falls short or gets too vague about Julia, Ledru’s emotive performance kicks in. She can go from wiry and electric to introspective and tender with equal verve. Her performance is what saves the film from going too far into being an empty mood piece, giving Rodeo a lead we feel compelled to root for precisely because of her messy, chaotic, and human tendencies.

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