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.