Newest Review: ... is equally effective matched to a grittier, more grounded narrative than his previous work. Responsible for 2000's Requiem for a Dream, he... more
The Wrestler (Film Only)
The Wrestler (DVD)
Member Name: DavidJay
The Wrestler (DVD)
Advantages: Stunning performances, wonderful, low-key direction.
Disadvantages: Evan Rachel Wood's performance is a touch over-egged at times.
A grim account of one man's personal and professional failures, losses and regrets, The Wrestler marks the welcome return of two cinematic forces hitherto M.I.A for one reason or another: Mickey Rourke and Darren Aronofsky. For the former, it marks the (presumably) final movement in a prolonged comeback attempt drawn-out over the past half-decade - an opportunity to capitalise at last upon the gains made by a (justly) acclaimed performance in Rodriguez and Miller's Sin City. For the latter, it affords a belated return to the kind of critical acclaim that met his rightly-lauded debut, Pi, only to taper off in the wake of the shrill, faintly-ridiculous Requiem for a Dream and the commendable but flawed and nowhere-near-as-profound-as-it-thought-it-was The Fountain.
One detects something of both players in the character of Randy "The Ram" Robinson, once a star of the professional wrestling circuit, now a destitute, bankrupt has-been scraping together a meagre living from local amateur matches and the occasional (poorly attended) meet-and-greet public appearance.
Offered a lucrative rematch-deal which will see him face off against the similarly-positioned Ayatollah, Robinson looks set to make some sort of return, only for a series of long-brewing health issues to catch up with him, resulting in his forced retirement.
From here, Robsinon attempts to reconnect with his estranged daughter (played by a three-quarters good to one-quarter awful Evan Rachel Wood) and to woo Marisa Tomei's Cassidy, a stripper at a nearby club.
On paper the kind of rise/fall/rise narrative beloved of the Academy voters, The Wrestler is much more of a kin with the canonical American independent films of the last three decades - particularly the 1970s - than, say, Stallone's similarly-themed Rocky Balboa, or even Scorsese's Raging Bull. It is a film about mood, about down-time, about anticipation-over-action. The wrestling sequences are brief and convincing, but it's the palpable sense of a life ebbing away one mutter at a time that sticks in the memory.
In the best scene, Robinson sits in his trailer-home playing a vintage NES wrestling game with a young kid from the nearby houses, commandeering a crudely-animated version of himself whilst the youngster pontificates regarding the wonders of Counter Strike. The scene is funny, touching and incredibly sad whilst never once playing the big old Touching or Funny or Sad cards. There's no mournful music, nor EMOTING from Rourke. There is a stillness, a poignancy.
This is a quiet film about a sadness so loud as to be near deafening. It's contemplative, graceful, low-key and defiantly ambiguous. It requires, and rewards, patience, and it's a world away from the hyperbolic bombast of Aronofsky's last two features.
Welcome back, the man says.
Summary: A remarkable return from two long-missed cinematic forces.