Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Film: "The Wrestler"

(TEASER ALERT: If you haven't seen this film, the ending is mentioned in this piece!)
Just saw Darren Aronofsky's "The Wrestler" starring Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, and Evan Rachel Wood. I thought it was a very good, gritty movie, but I think Mankiewicz from At the Movies is a bit over the top in his praise about it being the "number one" and "solidly number one" film of the year. As a story, it's actually pretty formulaic, in that almost from the beginning his death in the ring seems inevitable, and the heart attack confirmed the ending halfway into the film. Having had open heart surgery last year, the scene where Randy the Ram went for a run in the woods and had to stop, painfully out of breath, was reminiscent of the first few long walks I had to take by myself after returning home from the hospital. Your mind says one thing but your body says another.

Marisa Tomei's performance was solid and can't be underestimated in helping round out Rourke's character. Aronofsky's camerawork was interesting, at times much like a documentary. For much of the beginning of the film the camera is behind Rourke, following him, making the viewer feel like a hanger on, tagging along with the former wrestling star trying to be close to him. As we see his character "come down to earth", the camera assumes a more traditional position. Speaking of camera shots, there were quite a few in Asbury Park! I figure the shots were done in 07, and it's incredible how much work has been done in the past 12-18 mos! The Casino, boardwalk and carousel building were still in the same dilapidated condition they've been in for years, and if you go there now it's completely different. Amazingly fast changes...

I think the media is being naive when articles create this image as if Rourke's career tailspinned, he didnt get any work for years, and this is his big comeback, something he is subtly presenting as well. People love a comeback, and I think this has been an effective marketing tool as that is the main gist of the buzz. However, the fact is he's been in at least one movie a year, except for 07 when he was filming, since 1989! Granted, many were duds or supporting roles, but it's not as if the guy wasnt working til Aronofsky rang him up.

It is undoubtedly the best fictional wrestling movie ever made. Having sold artwork at a few wrestling conventions (yes indeed, think several rungs down the ladder from a Star Trek convention!) I've seen firsthand former bigtime stars hobbling in to sell merchandise and sign autographs, and I've seen them work small indie shows in pretty bad shape, so I could relate to watching the Ram. So I watched this film with an insider's eye and I'm curious what my non-wrestling fan friends think of the film. Please post your comments!

1 comment:

Scanman said...

I just saw the movie today (Feb 3) I enjoyed it, good independent film, nice shots of Jersey but not very unusual. Yeah, the Mickey rourke comeback. they said the same of John Travolta for Pulp Fiction and even he was in some hit films right before it.

Granted "Look Who's Talking" isn't great art but they were hits, and isn't "Sin City" considered a hit too, along with a planned sequel?