Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Wrestler

It's Oscar night, and I've only seen one of the Best Picture nominees (Milk). I had hoped to see more of the nominated films, but time and money didn't allow for it.

I did get to see The Wrestler last weekend, which was worth both the time and the money. It is a fantastic film, one of Darren Aronofsky's best, if not the best film he has made. All the hype you've heard about Mickey Rourke's performance is spot on. This is one of those rare occasions when a role and an actor are so perfectly suited for each other it is mesmerizing. He is the center of the film, appearing in practically every scene much like Daniel Day-Lewis in last year's Best Actor performance in There Will Be Blood (although the movies are completely different in scope). The movie is filtered through this man's eyes so completely, that when his heart breaks you can't help but feel it.

This being an Aronofsky movie, you should know that it isn't all happiness and sunshine. It does have a lot more heart than his previous films (with the exception of The Fountain, which is all heart). The movie is practically a study in world-weariness, but Aranofsky clearly has so much respect and compassion for the characters and the worlds they inhabit. This makes their suffering all the more tragic, because you really care so much about them. Even more so than a film like Requiem For A Dream, which is unrelenting in its punishment, but ultimately feels cold and slightly removed. The Wrestler grounds you in its world from the opening scene, because it is so stripped of the stylistic flourishes that Aronofsky is known for. It's hard to believe this is the same guy who invented the "hip-hop montage" as an editing transition. Nor does the SnorriCam make an appearance.

Also noteworthy are the performances of Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood, and Todd Barry. All of them do a great job playing characters who highlight, in one way or another, various frustrations Randy "The Ram" Robinson has with the way his life has turned out. They may also be the only way through which he can redeem himself.

I won't say too much else about the film, other than that I think it is fantastic. It could have been one of the Best Picture nominees, in my opinion. But I'm glad that Rourke is at least getting the recognition he deserves.


Zhubin said...

I thought the subplot with the daughter was far too cliched and really felt jammed into the rest of the movie. Aside from that, I really liked it. Also learned a great deal about the horrific injuries these guys are happy to endure in the smaller circuits. You know that Necrobutcher is a real guy, right?

Sharkbear said...

Yeah, I heard that guy was a real wrestler. I can't imagine those guys get paid enough to do that to themselves.