The Wrestler

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Decades of movie making and to the best of my, and Darren Aronofsky’s knowledge, a serious film on the subject of professional wrestling has never been done. Boxing has the heroic “Rocky” and the sad decline of “Raging Bull”, but wrestling has never been given the time of day. Is there not a story good enough? That can’t be it, wrestling in itself is one big story.

It’s entertainment. Scripted, yes, but isn’t it harder to take a punch when you know it’s coming? It’s a sport full of men, and woman (just not in this film), who sit in locker rooms and plan out the pain they will inflict on each other.

The credits that open “The Wrestler” pan across a decades worth of news clippings in a gaudy green font set to 80’s rock music. Its a stylish and appropriate way for Director Darren Aronofsky to present his newest film; which makes a radical departure from his previous work and a sad reminder of it’s central character’s past.

Mickey Rourke plays Randy “The Ram” Robinson, a wrestler twenty years past his prime who only knows how to do one thing. Ram, as he’s often called, returns to the ring every weekend to wrestle at independent events. His body is breaking down, held up by steroids and weightlifting. He lives alone and hasn’t talked to his daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) in years, finding comfort only in the ring and in his occasional trips to the strip club where he has made a friend in Cassidy (Marissa Tomei).

The always dependable Tomei and young but extremely talented Wood deliver fantastic performances; providing the opportunity to observe the nuance of Rourke’s performance, as he clings to the only real connections he has to the real world. 

It remains to be seen if Rourke will take home the Oscar, but as far as I’m concerned he deserves to. It’s a shame that Aronofsky hasn’t been nominated, or the film for that matter, but i’ve voiced my opinion on this already. What can’t be praised enough is the chemistry  between a great actor getting a second chance and a great director hitting his prime. 

He needed an actor who could act with his entire body, including his eyes. Notice the numerous tracking shots used throughout the film, a trick Aronofsky is particularly fond of. Here he watches Rourke’s shoulders in long takes, letting us take in the weight they’ve held up all these years. Like the rapid editing drug sequences in “Requiem for a Dream” and the 180 degree camera flip panning through centuries in “The Fountain”, he is a director so confident in his technique that he doesn’t mind relying on it. 

Darren Aronofksy was confident in Rourke’s ability to perfect the performance of Randy “The Ram” Robinson. He lost investors who thought the casting would be too risky, he felt another actor would be even riskier. In his mind Rourke was the only actor fit for the role, and he may have been right. “Ram” isn’t an instant pop culture landmark like Heath Ledger’s take on the Joker, but the two men share company in crafting the two of the best roles in recent years. “The Wrestler” shares company with three other films by a great director on the rise.

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~ by rozco on February 19, 2009.

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