Tuesday, May 12, 2009

#132: The Wrestler


The Wrestler
Written by Robert D. Siegel
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Released 2008 (wide release January 2009)

Look, what can I possibly write that hasn't already been written about Mickey Rourke's performance as Randy "The Ram" Robinson in The Wrestler? It's the role of a lifetime for the actor, and not a second goes by where Rourke isn't 100% sincere and believable.

The hype is true; The Wrestler is his glorious comeback (though, for my money, I'd actually place Rourke's comeback a few years earlier with his work as Marv in Robert Rodriguez's Sin City). Everything else that happens in the movie is incidental to his work. He could be fishing or reading the phone book, who gives a shit? You won't be able to take your eyes off that surprisingly expressive slab of meat on Rourke's shoulders.

The real revelation that everyone seems to be ignoring is a real stunner: that Darren Aronofsky can make a down-to-Earth, gritty and realistic film that doesn't feel as ponderous as a bad acid trip in a library of Philosophy textbooks.

If you've ever tried to sit through The Fountain like I tried a few weeks back, you know where I'm coming from. Even Aronofsky's finest hour as a filmmaker, Requiem for a Dream is an incredibly well made but emotionally taxing experience that few people could subject themselves to more than once, if at all.

He must have known full well that he was at the helm of the Mickey Rourke Show, because he goes incognito here and keeps the camera work handheld and -- from what I can tell -- digital. Considering the quick cuts and general business in his other work, his restraint here is impressive. Plus, it's pretty unbelievable that the same guy who made Requiem and Pi could make a scene that prominently features Ratt's "Round and Round" both poignant and romantic.

I enjoyed The Wrestler, but the movie as a whole is nothing compared to Rourke's performance. If you've ever seen a sports movie in your life, you'll be able to pick up the cues on where this is all heading for "The Ram." Tomei is okay here, though she isn't given much to work with. Evan Rachel Wood fares better with the few scenes she has as Rourke's distant daughter. Really though, the most flavor comes in scenes where Rourke mingles with actual wrestlers. The respect and love these guys have for each other behind the scenes really drive home why a battered old man could have such a hard time leaving the life that is destroying him.

For more on The Wrestler:
- Movie information at IMDB
and Wikipedia.

The trailer:

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