Sunday, March 8, 2009
Day Thirty-Nine: The Wrestler (2008) - Rank 4.5/5
Darren Aronofsky can scarcely be considered a conventional director. Looking at the "Eraserhead"-inspired Pi, the manically-edited "Requiem For a Dream" and the existential "The Fountain," his short career is certainly eclectic. When I saw "The Wrestler," I was surprised though, for Aronofsky has created a film that's accessible to the general public and far more linear and straightforward than any of his previous project. This choice could have been made by Aronofsky simply because he was wanted to approach storytelling from a different angle, or perhaps he chose to tone down his trademark, kinetic style for fear of detracting the attention from Mickey Rourke.
Simply put, Rourke's performance makes the movie; it's no exaggeration to say that this was the role he was destined to play. As a professional wrestler, Randy "The Ram" Robinson was one of the greats, but after a heart attack, his great battles become adapting to an inglorious 9-5 job, trying to regain his daughter's tolerance (much less love) and forming a genuine relationship with a stripper (Marisa Tomei). Even if individuals shy away from the visceral violence of pro-wrestling, I think it's hard not to be moved by Rourke's Randy. He's a character that seems to remain in his own world for most of the film, not out of an ego trip (though he is egocentric), but out of a near childlike bliss. For example, on his first day at work as a cashier in a deli, he strolls through the interior of the store, imagining the crowds cheering for him to appear. Before stepping out to the deli counter, he bounces anxiously as if he's about to take on a title match rather than serve up sliced meat to septuagenarians.
The movie is also as heartbreaking as it is endearing. While Randy tries to remain optimistic in his new life, he slowly comes to the realization that he doesn't truly belong and that his true place is in the ring. Thus begins Randy's torment, for if he wishes to return to his calling, he may very well die. A fantastic moment where Randy comes to this realization is at an autograph signing. After a day of hardly any attendees, he looks at the tables around him, filled with his colleagues that have since retired. Some doze while they wait for a fan to show up, while other sit, confined to wheelchairs as a result of their hazardous avocation. That scene also illustrates the greatest aspect of the film, and that is it changes your perspective on the wrestling industry. It's altered because Aronofsky takes those thick-necked, animalistic slabs of flesh and makes them seem human by showing us something we thought they could never have - frailty.
Watch the Trailer