The Wrestler

Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler (dir. Darren Aronofsky, 2008).

Mickey Rourke has never been one of my favorite actors, and it's odd that this stale dirty-realist draaaaama should show him to best advantage. He gives himself entirely over to the role of Randy "the Ram" Robinson, a wrestler who was big in the eighties and still clings to the decade's hair-metal ethic for dear life. The film gets just the right grainy look, and for the first twenty minutes or so, you're ready to believe that The Wrestler will plunge Cassavetes-like into the quotidian depths of its subject matter's spandexy squalor. But Darren Aronofsky is no Cassavetes, and after the insanely gnarly barbed wire and staple gun scene, which is almost worthy of Gummo, it's mostly clumsy emotion-wringing about the wrestler's relationship with his estranged daughter and the stripper with a heart of gold who tries to help him straighten out his life. (The stripper, by the way, is Marisa Tomei, whom I refuse to stop thinking of as my favorite actress despite not being sure if she can really act or not.) There are a couple of scenes with Rourke working behind the meat counter of a supermarket that nearly redeem the otherwise patience-testing stretches of generic triteness.


John Damer said...

Couldn't it be argued that rote qualities of the 2nd act of The Wrestler are there to make the movie's resolution more tragic? Despite any expected attempts Randy the Ram makes to straighten his life out, because of a fatal flaw (his need for adulation) he fails.

And I think your comment against Tomei was cold. You should climb into a fridge to warm up.

John Damer said...

Also: Aronofsky is emulating the Dardenne Brothers with The Wrestler, not John Cassavettes.

kyle said...

the meat counter scenes with Randy and the customers left me almost giddy, i thought they were so engaging. the movie really needed more of that.

although her heart may or may not be gold, marisa tomei made one helluva stripper. i think of cate blanchett as my favorite actress, but tomei sure knows how to make her case.

i agree with damer's assessment of the effects of the 2nd half of the movie, as well. the more it looked like things were going to work out well, the more i was certain aronofsky wouldn't let it happen. i especially liked Randy's last glance to the empty curtain offstage.

an older couple near us left during the "pain match" scene. and as the kids say, "that's how i knew it was good."