Sunday, January 25, 2009

REVIEW: The Wrestler...

I am a closet wrestling fan. Sorry if I have just lost all credibility, but I just really enjoy watching wrestling. I have since I was born, and it's just something I enjoy. I am also probably the biggest Darren Aronofsky fan on this planet. From Pi to The Fountain, I think that there may not be any director working today that can challenge the viewer more than Mr. Aronofsky. When you add those two things together, you have one film that I will be in line to see. However, did it live up to those high expectations?

This new drama is set around the life of an aging professional wrestler, decades past his prime, who now barely gets by working small wrestling shows and as a grocery store employee. As his health begins to fade, so is his career, and personal life. He struggles to lead a new life while attempting to reconcile with the daughter that he had abandoned in childhood, and trying to make a new relationship with a stripper he is falling for, all while working towards a rematch with his longtime nemesis, The Ayatollah, which may bring him back to the top.

The Wrestler has been long talked as the "resurrection of Mickey Rourke", and that may be the biggest understatement of the century. He embodies this character not only as a performance, but he gives a sense of reality, that this entire film needs, and successfully attains. The character he portrays weirdly resembles the career trajectory of this much talented actor, who for about a decade, fell off the wagon. Fellow performers Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood are equally as stellar, and really hold the film as the only other true characters the film looks at.

Tomei plays the stripper that The Ram falls for, and she is sort of in the same boat in life. She is in a profession that is hard to be taken seriously in, stripping, as is wrestling, and also has had a tough life. The only difference between the two characters is that Tomei's character, Pam, has a son who still truly loves her. She is able to get out of the stage persona she has, and go back into the real world. However, the same can not be said for Mickey's character, Randy.

He abandoned his daughter, played by Evan Rachel Wood, when she was a child, and has had a rocky relationship ever since. She gives just the right about of vulnerability, and you really feel for her.

However, the real surprise of this film is the film making from Aronofsky. Coming off of the Fountain, the first thought that ran threw my mind when I first heard of the film about a year or two ago, was that it was his return to the snory cam and quick editing. I could not have been more wrong. The Wrestler really has a cinema verite style feel to it, and it works for this emotionally draining film. It's got a very gritty and grainy feel to it, and it doesn't shy away from equalling that grit in what is going on in the frame. The Wrestling scenes were handled brilliantly, and so were the dialogue scenes, and particularly two scenes, in a grocery store, and in what looked to be a Dollar General type store, both of which were the only true scenes of hope in this rather dark film.

More so than wrestling, this film seemed to allow Aronofsky to get back to what he has dealt with in Requiem for A Dream, and in a sense, Pi, and that is addiction. This film is almost like watching someone get joy from getting high off of heroin in a way. Wrestling is his heroin. Even though he has gotten joy from not doing this, and even though he knows it's not good for him, and will ultimately kill him, the world has no real place for him, and he knows this. He needs the quick fix, the quick second of happiness, even if it not only ruins his health, but in one of the most powerful scenes, even if it ruins his life in general.

The ending to this film is also one of the most interesting I've gotten a chance to see in a long time, yet, I don't want to spoil anything, so if you have seen this film, please, leave your thoughts in the comment section. It's one that will stick with me for days to come.

There's one scene that really bugged me (Tomei making a sort of heavy handed Christ reference, as much as one can be made), but it's so pointless, that I won't waste my time. This is easily one of the five best films I have seen from '08, and that leads me to a little rant. There is NO WAY that Slumdog Millionaire is better than this film. Sure, Slumdog is possibly more fun, but everything about The Wrestler just works better. Also, Slumdog tried so hard for the story to stick with the viewer, yet, today, I can honestly say that there will be parts of The Wrestler that I will not forget for a long time. It's just a better film, and one that everyone needs to see. Please, make this the next one you see in theatres.


Aronofsky's return to the megaplex, is one that will not be forgotten by the viewer. A tough watch it may be, but one that should be seen by everyone. Mickey Rourke, welcome back, Mr. Oscar will be here to see you on the 22nd.

Go see something good!

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