Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Wrestler

The Wrestler
2008. Rated R, 111 minutes.
Director: Darren Aronofsky. Starring Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood, Mark Margolis.

Plot: Aged pro wrestler Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Rourke) is 20 years past his glory days and struggling with life.The Good: You may have already heard about Mickey Rourke's performance. It is indeed excellent. He conveys a real and permeating sense of sadness in not only every word but every action. That skill flips around on us and makes us feel even more sad when he finally seems to be happy. It sounds odd, but it's extremely effective. The women in his life are also very important, not only to how we see him, but to how he sees himself. His daughter Stephanie (Wood) is the physical embodiment of all he's failed at and/or lost. Cassidy (Tomei), the stripper he's trying to court is a female version of him. He's constantly trying to make amends with both, though he hadn't yet done anything to Cassidy. It's a wonderful metaphor for him trying to make things right with himself, even while he's battling that self. Director Aronofsky does a great job getting the most from his actors and creating a bleak enough world that they, and we, have a hard time imagining better for these people. Finally, the wrestling scenes are flat out brutal.

The Bad: Stephanie's relationship with her significant other could've played a bigger role. It's strongly implied that she is a lesbian, which is really neither here or there. But it could've been. This has little to do with her preference but lots to do with the seemingly nurturing relationship she was in. We get only a glimpse of it. Having the girlfriend interact with Randy more could've added another dynamic to the mix. Seeing how each of their relationships differed with Stephanie, or are similar would've been interesting. If you don't want to go down that road how about showing how different the life of Randy's "arch-rival" The Ayatollah (Ernest Miller) turned out. We're told he's done well for himself but being shown this in juxtaposition with Randy could've been really powerful. Those are both mere possibilities which could've taken the movie in drastically different directions. What should definitely have been done was having The Ayatollah fake a Middle Eastern accent, preferably a bad one, during "the show" (wrestling match). It seems small but would've fit perfectly into the world Aronofsky created.

The Ugly: Barbed wire and a staple gun. Yeesh!

Recommendation: Even though there's a good deal of wrestling, this isn't just for fans of the "sport." It's for anyone that enjoys a good character study. Old-schoolers, like myself, may have heard the rumblings that it's based loosely on the life of Jake "The Snake" Roberts. Maybe, but as rough as this movie is, a real biopic about Roberts would have to be even darker. I digress. Let me repeat that this is a great character study. It also has excellent acting and wrestling scenes that will make you flinch.

The Opposite View: Richard Corliss, Time Magazine

What the Internet Says: 8.4/10 on (#83 all time as of 5/6/09), 97% on, 81/100 on

MY SCORE: 9/10

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