Off the Shelf…'The Wrestler'

Just like any Aronofsky film, there is inevitable heartache and boy is it rampant. It seems like with each succeeding film, he finds a way to get deeper under our skin and The Wrestler was no exception. I sat down to watch The Wrestler again on BRD last night and every time I see it, I am continually impressed. Darren Aronofsky sure makes some emotional and philosophical films, and while I think some of them (mostly Pi and The Fountain) went over my head, I found this film struck a chord with me.

In my opinion, I think you can only “get” sports movies if you actually played the sport they’re depicting. It’s that, “I know what he’s feeling, I’ve been there” relateability that pulls you into the story. Having been a Wrestler (not “professional”) and Judo player for over a decade of my life this movie hit home for me. I felt this eerily realistic resonance while watching the film and was just captivated for the duration…especially by Mickey Rourke‘s performance.

With the one-two punch of Darren Aronofsky’s direction and the beautifully tragic acting of Mickey Rourke, this film did nothing but shine. Simply put it’s a very fine character study and an emotional masterpiece. Had this been any other movie, the writing and dialog (which was extremely simple and almost banal) could have been lost but it was Rourke and (a surprisingly well cast) Marisa Tomei that brought such gravity to each scene. I watched an amazing chemistry manifest and heard those simple lines delivered with such a vulnerable and “down, but not out” attitude that you couldn’t help but empathize with what these characters were going through.

There’s a duality that exists between Ram and Cassidy/Pam and they are pretty much mirror images of each other (hell even those names seem a bit too similar don’t they?). Both are “broken down pieces of meat” just doing the only thing they were any good at. The raw emotion exhibited in some touching and heart-wrenching scenes is something I really didn’t expect to find from two actors like Rourke and Tomei. Yet for as unlikely as they may have been, they were perfectly cast and were extremely deservingly of their Oscar nominations. Evan Rachel Wood made for a similarly impressive, although very brief, turn as Ram’s abandoned daughter. All three brought a weight and constant gravity (although maybe too much at times) to each scene. Their performances amplified by the near hopeless look and feel of Aronofsky’s bleak locales and sets. This was shot in New Jersey so maybe that had a bit to do with it too. Still every element harmoniously contributed to one very solid film.

Aronofsky is able to convey “shocking” and “horrific” in scenes that are both vivid as well as those where the camera simply pans the room taking in very lack luster settings. It is such a sad movie, specifically focusing in on Ram’s hollowed existence, and although it’s not as depressing as Requiem, it really gets you inside. I find myself in tears at the ending every time and I’m not ashamed to say it. It, like every other part of this film, is so very well done because it leaves the viewer to interpret it however they wanted. But on a lighter note, this film had its fun moments and ones that just made you smile. I also thought it was perfect that Randy drove a Dodge “RAM” van, something which was undoubtedly written into the script. Hey, it made me laugh.

It would be so naively crude to sum up the movie with the phrase, “there’s nothing worse than an aging hipster” but it, in some small part does actually apply here. The rest is left up to Aronofsky’s masterful filmmaking and stunningly believable performances from an all-star cast. Again, I can’t say enough for Mickey Rourke (who just looked like life had kicked him in the teeth) pulled an amazingly delicate performance out of what, in any other circumstances, might have been laughable or just boring. People say that wrestling is fake, but while it is choreographed ahead of time, it is still very real. Yet none of the physical beatings in this film can come anywhere close to the emotional realism depicted here…both in (and especially) out of the ring.

G-S-T Ruling: 4.5/5

G-S-T Seal of Approval: GRANTED

Comments

  1. FRC Ruben says

    In a strange twist of fate: The Academy awards a person for a film that they will do rather than for films that they have done and got snubbed on.

    Marisa is fabulous, and so smoking hot for a woman in her 40s.

    I say that this is DA’s least depressing film. Everyone always gets it somehow in the end of an Aronofsky narrative, but at least the ram went out like he wanted to go out.

    • Totally agree with your last statement…it’s much less deflating and not a chore to see it repeatedly:)

  2. The Wrestler – ah, what a great film, and an even better performance by Rourke. It’s my favorite since he played the alcoholic writer Henry Chinaski in Barfly (1987).

    • Haven’t see it…or any early Rourke for that matter. I’ll look into it!

  3. Jessica says

    What a fantastic movie! Not having any real knowledge about wrestling it was definitely an eye-opener. Rourke had to battle some personal demons in real life to have the emotional depth to pull this off. What a performance!

  4. A beautiful film, though one of the most depressing films you’ll ever see that’s for damned sure. Rourke just rocked in this and gave a very endearing performance. Tomei, as usual, was sensational and continues to be under-rated. You are right – the realism projected throughout the film is so subtle, but so dead on. Nice job!

    • Thanks Peter. I wouldn’t say one of the most depressing but it was heart-wrenching. Not sure if that’s really the same or different:P