Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Wrestler - A-

In theaters. Rated R, 105 minutes. Trailer.

The Wrestler tells the story of a has-been pro wrestler struggling with mortality, fleeting fame and his self-inflicted loneliness. Mickey Rourke inhabits his character, Randy "The Ram" Robinson, and presents a person that is tragic, stupid, charismatic, lonely, and sad all at the same time. With his mangled face and muscled, scarred body and backstory that matches the Ram, Rourke was perfectly cast by Director Darren Aronofsky. Click below for more on the film that grows on me more every day:

We learn in the opening credits that the Ram was huge in the 80's, but is now eeking out a bleak existence in New Jersey wrestling on the z league circuit in VFW halls and junior high gyms. The pay is bad and the risks great, but Ram lives for the roar of the (small, pathetic) crowd. To help make ends meet he works at a grocery store in the back, then at the deli counter to get more hours. After a particularly gruesome match involving a stapler, barbed wire and a ladder (!), the Ram has a heart attack and subsequent open heart surgery, leaving his career in shambles. With no real family he reaches out to his two quasi-connections, an aging stripper named Cassidy (Marisa Tomei) and his justifiably bitter daughter Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood). The attempts are somewhat promising but ultimately futile, and Ram realizes his only life is in the ring, so he chooses to do one last fight, bucking the doctor's orders.

Without Aronofsky's skillful hand, this film would've turned into a predictable redemption tale. Instead the viewer is left with a clouded vision of Ram - bad father (over and over), charismatic but pathetic wrestler, fallen star, charming guy, and dismissed human being. He is as Bruce's title song says "a one trick pony", only good at wrestling and performing and being adored. I love the complicated character and performance from Rourke. With his tattered coat, glasses, cheap hearing aid, bleached hair, disfigured face and unflinching commitment to his own fame he is the picture of a life full of bad choices, but is still a sympathetic character. The film ends powerfully, with a "Ram Jam" following a devastating look 'at the world' through a curtain by Ram.

Tomei is great as Cassidy, a more archetypal 'good' stripper that is losing her looks and trying to prevent feelings for a 'customer.' Their scenes together were some of my favorite, much better than the daughter scenes. I love the scene with the daughter where they are reconnecting, but hate that Aronofsky put them straddling a wall facing eachother - they look ridiculous - like 5th grade girls talking. I also didn't buy the dancing scene with the two of them.

Aronofsky wallows in the grim life of Ram, feasting on the bathroom showers, spray on tan and sleeping in the 'ram' van. Ultimately, this film is satisfying but not as great as I thought it would be.

1 comment:

Lawyer said...

This opens in Houston and Kansas City tomorrow and in OKC (and most everywhere else) on the 23rd.

Watch out for a small role from Judah Friedlander and the bongo player from the Conchords.