Amidst the bleak Australian wasteland of David Michôd’s “The Rover,” there’s a scene so wonderfully out of character that it recontextualizes the entire setting. It’s also one of best shots in the film.
While this technically isn’t a spoiler, knowing about the scene beforehand does lessen the effect. You’ve been warned.
After Eric (Guy Pearce) and Rey (Robert Pattinson) identify the house sheltering the targets of their revenge, Keri Hilson’s “Pretty Girl Rock” begins playing loudly on the soundtrack. We transition to a shot of Rey in their car by himself at night. The song is playing on the radio, and gradually Rey begins to sing along.
Speaking with David Michôd, he intended the scene to be a reminder of the kind of life Rey would have had in other circumstances, one that included more pop songs than acts of revenge.
But as important as the choice of “Pretty Girl Rock” was to Michôd (a guilty pleasure of his), it wasn’t the only option. “We went into the shoot knowing that that was the song that we were going to use. One thing that did happen was when we were rehearsing the shot, Rob was sitting in the car singing some really beautiful Southern gospel type thing,” Michôd said. “I remember going up to him at a certain point during camera rehearsals and said ‘What is that you’re singing?’ He said, ‘I don’t know. It’s something I’ve just made up.’ We did a few takes of him singing this thing. It was really beautiful.”
Michôd ended up deciding against Pattinson’s improvised gospel song, but only because of how much he liked the Hilson song, which he interpreted as having a darker meaning than the poppy hook might let on.
“There was something about that one that I really like, in part because it’s not only very poppy but also it’s one of those songs that — as so many great pop songs do — has a strange, dark undercurrent.”
“The Rover” is in theaters now.