Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Wrestler (2008)

Movie quotes:
Cassidy (Marisa Tomei): He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him. And by his wounds, we were healed.
Randy (Mickey Rourke): What was that all about?
Cassidy: That’s the Passion of the Christ! You have the same hair. You’ve never seen it? Dude, you gotta, it’s amazing! They throw everything at him: whips, arrows rocks. Threw everything the fuck at him the whole two hours - he just takes it.
Randy: Tough dude.

At a glance:
Darren Aronofsky’s no-holds-barred tale of an ageing wrestler at the tail end of his career delves deeply into the details of his daily life to reveal much about the psyche of the man and indeed of any celebrity

Our review:
I’ve been a huge fan of Darren Aronofsky ever since 1998’s Pi. His films are confronting, original, sometimes ugly, but purpose-built ugly, if you will – beautiful ugly. What touches would he put on a more conventional story of well-worn, ageing wrestling star Randy ‘Ram’ Robinson (Mickey Rourke) at the tail end of his fading career?

First, he involved his long-time musical collaborator, Clint Mansell, to effectively set the mood. Next, he often used a ‘walk-behind’ style of direction so we can view the world the way Ram does. He added all those little touches: the way Ram contemplates and then keeps the autograph-seeker’s pen; the action-figure wrestler on the dashboard; even the way Cassidy’s goodbye hip wriggle means so much more to Ram than it probably does to her.

Most importantly, he elicits a world-class performance from Rourke, whose first-ever Best Actor nomination is not only warranted, but hopefully will be fulfilled. His performance is all about the small details as well. Every movement he makes requires such extreme effort; even the act of closing the curtains on his trailer makes him grunt heavily. Rourke goes about as far as any actor can in inhabiting his role; he is, for all intents and purposes, that ageing wrestler, and anyone who is not aware that Rourke is a career thespian would probably assume he is just playing himself.

The story behind The Wrestler parallels that of any celebrity who is faced with the end of their career. In many situations, that career has, however destructively, provided for all of their needs. Faced with this loss, they search for meaning in more conventional areas (like human relationships). Ram explores the idea of making something more serious with his long-term sexy stripper friend Cassidy (Marisa Tomei), and he tries to renew the severed bond with his mature daughter Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood), who has long tried to forget him the way he once forgot her. The Wrestler doesn’t have any easy answers; it taunts us with the hint of resolution and happy Hollywood endings, but it also insists of staying true to the reality of the story it tells. It is a real slice of life, and nothing more – and for that, it should be receive a standing ovation.

Marisa Tomei also goes all out in her role as a highly sensual (ageing) stripper whose career mirrors that of Ram; it earned her a Best Supporting Actress nomination.

Rating: 3.5 of 4

Other reviewers said:
"Fluctuating eloquently between hope and sorrow, tenderness and isolation, 'The Wrestler' packs an emotional punch - a deeply personal story of one man's search for truth, love, and life outside of the ring."
-Mark Sells (Oregon Herald)

"This is Rourke's big comeback role, and he definitely deserves the Academy Award nomination he received."
-Jeff Vice (Deseret News, Salt Lake City)

"You will feel pinned to your seat watching Rourke's characterization of a broken man in this modern take on the old-school boxing movie."
-Michael Smith (Tulsa World)

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