Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Damn it. I always feel like a huge movie snob hater when I see a film that's universally adored by everyone and I just can't get behind it. Sadly, The Wrestler is just that.

I know more about Darren Aronofsky and his filmography than most people. I've seen all his movies, including the ones he's written (Below anyone?). I enjoyed The Fountain (a rare opinion I've heard) and actually owned Requiem for a Dream. Thus, I was excited as shit that Aronofsky had jumped back from his financial flop of The Fountain and was making a film about a washed up professional wrestler trying to pull his life together. And one that starred sleazy, washed up actor trying to make a comeback Mickey Rourke. Jesus, Aronofsky, Rourke, a film about pro-wrestling? I was sold.

For the first thirty minutes of the film I was entirely pleased with what the combination had burned in to the celluloid. Rourke's Randy "The Ram" is as bitter sweet a character ever written. His face and body language beautifully expose this wounded man, this destroyed wreck that can only do one thing and one thing alone - wrestle. The first thirty minutes of the film follow his life as a wrestler, the matches, the drugs, the strange community that exists within this bizarre world - and its amazing. You really feel what his life is, and the hardcore staple match that changes the tone of the movie is almost unbearable to watch, cut as it is with the after effects, the staple pulling, the cauterizing, the bleeding. It's painful and you see the effect it has on the body and mind of a 50-something wrestler.

But after that, after The Ram's heart attack, and his need to fix his life, I was surprised at how formulaic the movie became. Oh sure, it still looked pretty and it still felt a little gritty, but in the end it was a very typical sort of change of life film about a man who's lost himself to obsession and is trying to bring himself back in to the real world. Marisa Tomei's Cassidy is your typical "stripper with the heart of gold" and her relationship with The Ram seems to hit beat by beat every other relationship ever. Also, the story arc involving his daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) is so stereotypical, and Wood's shrieky portrayal is borders on melodramatic.

It isn't that I didn't like the movie, as I was entirely entertained at least the entire time, it's just that I wasn't as impressed as everyone else. Sure, Mickey Rourke deserved the Oscar nod, the movie deserved a lot of kudos (especially Oscars, as its formulaic portrayal seems to fit its viewers a little more), but I just don't think it did anything different, or even that original. I would've preferred to watch a film about The Ram from the first thirty minutes and his life as a wrestler, not his attempt to change that life.

This is a good movie. It just could've been great.

Tomorrow: Hopefully, The French Connection II

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