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Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Wrestler: Ten Point Review

  1. As bad as Darren Aronfsky’s The Fountain was--filled with forced emotion, ridiculous sentiment, and half-baked philosophy--The Wrestler is its opposite. A wrenching look at a has-been who can’t pull his life together and who faces his own twilight with something too resigned to be nihilism but too broken to be redemption.
  2. It’s also the visual opposite of The Fountain. Whereas the former was a staggering vision (especially on the big screen), The Wrestler is grit and blood and an overwhelming sense of age. Not just in the cast, but in the run-down civic centers, the old cars and homes, every scene is as weathered as Mickey Rourke’s body. It isn’t pretty, but the extension of that decrepitude in threads throughout the film is just as much of an artistic achievement serving to support the mood and tone.
  3. The exception to this is Marisa Tomei whose, even looking a bit aged, is still rather pretty.
  4. It also proves that blood and violence, properly presented, can still manage to shock. Some of the scenes had me wincing in sympathetic pain.
  5. Good script. Not great but a good frame for Aronfsky’s direction and Mickey Rourke’s best ever role.
  6. You’ve heard it a million times since last year, but Rourke’s acting really is that good. It’s an engrossing and honest performance well worth the Oscar nomination.
  7. Marisa Tomei is wonderful in a much smaller role as an aging stripper.
  8. Darling girl refused to see this in the theater because of Rourke’s face--she finds it both terrifying and distracting. Which is fair: it is both terrifying and distracting. The young man who looked like this simply doesn’t exist anymore.  And while I won’t say that’s a good thing, it does give his performance a sense of gravitas that it wouldn’t have if he were still pretty. You believe he’s this screwed up old guy because he is this screwed up old guy.
  9. Washed up wrestlers aren’t a natural point of sympathy to me: it’s a strange career choice with a piss-poor retirement plan. Tomei, Aronfsky, a strong supporting cast, and, of course, Rourke give us an affecting view on these folks’ lives that is much more than I would have expected when I first heard about the project. But don’t expect any happy endings.
  10. None of which makes me believe that Aronfsky is a good choice to direct a remake of RoboCop. (which, admittedly, seems an entirely unnecessary venture even before Aronfsky’s name gets tossed into that particular pot).

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