Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Wrestler

This is the least of the three films I mentioned in my post. The director,
Darren Aronofsky, mostly abandons the astonishing visual apocalypses he created in “Pi” and “Requiem for a Dream” to tell the story of an aging wrestler at the end of his career. The one apocalyptic eruption is the bout that sends our hero, Randy “The Ram” Robinson, into a major health crisis. Since I hate spoilers I’ll merely say it’s how I imagine “The Passion of the Christ” (didn’t actually see that film) but with a staple gun added.

Many critics have pointed out the Mickey Rourke is physically perfect for the part of Randy since his face is bloated and distorted from decades of excess, from being broken in the boxing ring and from being badly reconstructed by plastic surgeons. However his body is still buff so you believe him as an athlete.

Rourke plays Randy as a nice guy who is also an enormous screwup and it is a wonderful performance. I have to give a nod to Mick LaSalle, the often insightful, sometimes annoying film critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, who points out that if that’s who Mickey Rourke really is (nice guy/ screwup) then he does a great job of allowing us see that and if in reality he’s a monster then he does a great job of making us think he’s a nice guy.

Randy has destroyed his relationship with his daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) whom he loves and he is having a hard time establishing a relationship with a lap dancer (Marisa Tomei) whom he also loves. His only moments of transcendence are in the staged mayhem of the wrestling ring, even though this is very bad for his aging body. It’s finally a simple tale. There’s a scene with Tomei and Rourke right before the climax of the movie that seems tacked on and inauthentic. That’s unfortunate but does not keep this from being a good movie, worth seeing.

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