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"The Wrestler"

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Joined: 01 Aug 2006
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 04, 2008 12:59 pm    Post subject: "The Wrestler" Reply with quote

Saw the new Darren Aronofsky movie last Wednesday. It's a "small" film. Much less self-consciously arty than previous Aronofsky efforts like "Requiem for a Dream" and "The Fountain." It's a gritty little indie shot in a cinema verite style that essentially comes down to Rourke and his performance, which is very very good.

I think the hype is legit and Rourke is definitely in for an Oscar nom. It's hard to imagine anyone else in the role. Aside from fitting the bill physically, he has a beat up face and the sort of hangdog appeal that you can't help but root for, even when he's making bad decisions. There's just a sweetness to Rourke that shines through from under the VERY rough exterior. It's a winning performance and I think the kudos he's getting are deserved.

Storywise, the film follows around a well past his prime Randy "The Ram" Robinson, a guy who was at his peak in the '80s. Now he's working the top of the card in high school gymnasiums.

The main plot points concern his attempts to get something going with Marisa Tomei's single-mom stripper (showing her age gracefully, still cute as hell and topless as much here as in "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead") and to reconnect with his estranged daughter (Evan Rachel Wood).

If Aronofsky hasn't seen "Beyond the Mat" I'd be shocked, as the father-daughter sequences are reminiscent of the Jake Roberts scenes with his daughter in "Mat." Regardless, it's effective. These scenes probably offer the most opportunity to slide into maudlin territory but I felt like Aronofsky and Rourke keep it from ever getting there.

Eventually, issues arise that make the Ram's continued wrestling a serious danger to his health. The scenes where he struggles to work in a "real job" complete with a dick boss are equal parts funny and sad. Ultimately, he's gotta choose if he wants to roll the dice and go back to the one thing he knows.

The wrestling stuff is handled respectfully and accurately. There's a scene set in CZW (which I'd never watched) that's flat out disturbing. He wrestles Necro Butcher (again, heard of him but never seen him) and they do things to each other that will disturb all but the most hardcore fans of garbage wrestling.

An earlier match in the movie features the use of the blade (which will be an eye opener for the general population), including a scene in the locker room where he snips up a razor blade and hides it in his tape. The film also deals frankly with steroid and pain medication abuse.

The film also gets some laughs from the various indie guys who appear as themselves. One locker room scene shows the guys going through their spots together "You guys are gonna work the leg? But I thought ... OK, forget it, we'll work the neck."

Also worth noting, Springsteen has written a song specifically for the end credits, which I liked a lot. I'd think that the song, along with Rourke, are shoe-ins for Oscar noms. A supporting actress nom for Tomei is also a legit possibility.
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