December 21, 2008

Movie Review: The Wrestler

Mickey Rourke will break your heart.

The Wrestler is one of the best movies of 2008 and Mickey Rourke and his beef stroganoff of a face has the performance of his career as Randy "The Ram" Robinson. The cinematography is unsettling and the story simple. Director Darren Aronofsky does not resort to gimmicky film making. Marisa Tomei is totally naked with nipple piercings. Again, Mickey Rourke will break your heart.

I don't want to give plot synopsis, the idea of writing one already gives me a headache, so I stole this from IMDB:

"Back in the late '80s, Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Mickey Rourke) was a headlining professional wrestler. Now, twenty years later, he ekes out a living performing for handfuls of diehard wrestling fans in high school gyms and community centers around New Jersey. Estranged from his daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) and unable to sustain any real relationships, Randy lives for the thrill of the show and the adoration of his fans. As his sense of identity starts to slip away, he begins to evaluate the state of his life -- trying to reconnect with his daughter, and striking up a blossoming romance with an exotic dancer (Marisa Tomei) who is ready to start a new life. Yet all this cannot compare to the allure of the ring and passion for his art, which threatens to pull Randy "The Ram" back into his world of wrestling."

That pretty much sums it up.

The Wrestler is a tender film telling a tragic yet very American story of the price you pay for living your dreams and for living in the past. On the surface, the film seems to make a statement about the violent and drug riddled culture of professional wrestling and of our society's hunger for dispensable heroes. But underneath the film is about the seemingly inconsequential decisions people make that can redeem or destroy a person's life. I was teary eyed the whole movie. I don't get teary eyed at movies, ask anyone.

For the first ten minutes of the film you don't see Mickey's face, which is probably a good thing (Zing!). The camera follows the wrestler from behind as we watch him go through the motions after a bout in the ring. It gives a documentary feel to the film, but it also gives a feeling of despair and uncertainty. Professional wrestling might be "fake" but you won't be saying that anytime soon after you see this movie. It is very real to Randy "The Ram" and it becomes very real to you. I was reminded at several parts of the 1999 wrestling documentary Beyond the Mat, especially the story of former WWF (WWE? WWWhatever) wrestler Jake "The Snake" Roberts.

Oh and for about 80% of her screen time Marisa Tomei is naked or partially nude. She does play a stripper, but at one point I was counting the scenes she wasn't nude in. I think it's four. She's in the movie a lot. I don't think she's winning another Oscar here. (I hope not, it seems the Academy only gives best actress awards when actresses play whores, prostitutes or strippers). But she delivers a very strong and authentic performance.

Rourke carries the film on his broken back. Dialogue is at a minimum and half of his lines are grunts and strained breathing. It is mesmerizing for some reason. It is his best performance ever and it is one of the best performances this year.

It's not an easy movie to watch. I saw it by myself in a sold out theater and I sat between two women, one older (50's?) and one younger ( I have no idea, uh, 24?), and they both had to turn away at several scenes. They had to look away because the violence was too bloody and brutal in the ring and it was too distressing and heart wrenching outside.

Overall I give it a perfect score, no 5...5, 5 uh, stars? No. Damn I don't know, just go see the film.

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