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The Wrestler (2009) Director Darren Aronofsky 28 January 2009

Posted by jordanfarley in Uncategorized.

The Wrestler, thank God is not the WWE film we were all dreading but in fact one of the most intelligent and heartfelt sports movies made since the first Rocky. The story is relatively straight forward washed up wrestler Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson (Mickey Rourke) is in the death throes of his career, a physical wreck but getting by on sheer determination and the admiration of fans who remember him from his late ’80s heyday. After a particularly brutal match however Randy suffers a heart attack and is told by doctors that he will have to give up his job or risk another, almost certainly fatal, attack. Randy uses the time to put in extra hours on his demeaning daytime job behind a supermarket deli counter and to try and reconcile years of neglect with his estranged daughter (Evan Rachael Wood).

So far so Rocky but what makes the Wrestler so unique is Randy’s relationship with stripper Cassidy (Marissa Tomei). The parrallel is obvious, both put their bodies on display for the entertainment of others but whereas Cassidy is able to distinguish between herself in and out of the stripclub Randy doesn’t have the same luxury making his utter failure in every other part of his life outside the ring even more unbearable for the once famous figure. Randy’s relationship with Cassidy is where the heart of the movie lies (even more so than with his daughter) and is the catalyst for the film’s numerous heart breaking soliloquoys.

Rourke has been given the role of a lifetime as Randy ‘The Ram’. The parrallels between the washed up career of the wrestler and Rourke himself is impossible to ignore. After showing huge amounts of promise in early performances like Rumble Fish and Diner Rourke (to cut a long story short) went off the rails, embarking on a professional boxing career (the cause of the loss of his once youthful good looks) as the roles dried up. Since the early 2000s however Rourke’s career has had a bit of a resurgence with his marvellous turn in Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City a high point until now. You could say Randy is the role Rourke was born to play. He has seriously bulked up for the part (reportedly using the same steroid aided methods that professional wrestlers use) and embodies the Ram heart, body and soul. We feel nothing but sympathy for this washed up shell of a man as he tries to cope with facing the end of his life both in and out of the ring.

Tomei impresses just as much as Rourke. She spends a great deal of the movie wearing very little (and looks unbelievably good for 45) but never once do we feel the need to pity her. She is clearly a much stronger person than Randy, maybe not physically but emotionally and mentally. It is her role that makes Rourke’s work, without Cassidy The Wrestler would be little more than a sob story about a washed up sports star.

A huge amount of credit for the success of the film must also go to director Darren Aronofsky. Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain are two of my favourite films of all time (the latter especially was criminally underrated by critics and largely ignored by the public) and with The Wrestler Aronofsky brilliantly captures both the intensity of the action inside and outside the squared circle, employing a documentary/handheld style for the bulk of the films action. The film feels grungy and real. Frequent collaborator Clint Mansell also impresses with a score that relies heavily on the metal antics of guitar bands like AC/DC and Guns N’ Roses before swelling to an orchestral conclusion which manages to live up to his beautiful work in both Requiem and The Fountain.

I found The Wrestler to be one, if the not the, best film of the past year and it almost pains me to see both the film and Aronofsky ignored by the Oscars. Rourke and Tomei have rightly picked up nods but it’s a shame not to see Aronofsky and his work recognised. Poignant, intelligent and emotionally devastating The Wrestler is an astounding piece of work supported by two of the strongest performances onscreen this year.



1. The year so far « Widescreen - 10 June 2009

[…] personal picks of the year to date are The Wrestler, Let the Right One In(a modern-masterpiece which demands to be seen when the Blu-ray/DVD drops) and […]

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