Tuesday, 13 January 2009

The Wrestler (2009)

Like ‘There Shall Be Blood’, ‘The Wrestler’ is the sum of its central performance, an intense character study of ageing dying wrestler Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson. Mickey Rourke plays his part well and brings to the table a beautifully nuanced performance, so delicate and rough round the edges, sad and tragic. The film is ultimately a parallel of Rourke’s own career, and this, ‘The Wrestler’ is his last attempt at the big-time, his last shot at legendary status, and much like The Ram, lives in a bubble of his own ego’s construction, one that is as brittle as his bones and thus, where Rourke ends and The Ram begins is a blurred line. No matter, as this is a powerhouse of a film. It’s a departure for Aronofsky too, certainly the most linear film he;s done. In the past, Pi and Requiem for a Dream had a distinctive visual style, all fast cuts and repetitive imagery, one that Edgwar Wright has parodied many a time. This isn’t as visually arresting, instead less drum’n’bass video and more arthouse morose lingering. There are still Aronofsky ticks in the way he plays with time structures and flashes between scenes but this is more delicate than his standard fare, and all the better for it, because it never takes the spotlight off Rourke’s powerhouse of an ageing wrestler. Randy the Ram has been through it all, he’s got a hearing aid, he’s living in a trailer, no one comes to his table at ageing wrestler conventions, he’s on all kinds of medications and steroids, he wears reading glasses, his hands are broken and he is growing a flab. Yet he’s obsessed with his body and we see him prepare for little wrestling tricks, like hiding a razor blade to open his standard cut, tanning and perming/highlighting his hair. He plays old Nintendo games where he is the star. He still cares about his costumes and about the spirit of wrestling and ultimately, the rush and adrenaline of a crowd all screaming his name wildly. He works in the warehouse of a supermarket. He’s estranged from his daughter, who cares little about his life-affirming heart attack as he’s an absent father. In an effort to woo her, he strikes up a friendship with Cassidy, an ageing stripper (an excellent and beautiful Marisa Tomei), also obsessed with her body and the lack of dances and compliments she now gets, as she gets older. They form a strong bond that plays between her position of sexual allure over him and their platonic similar situations. Rourke is truly brilliant in this film, as is Marisa Tomei and the heart-wrenching beauty of the story is simple yet so touching. He’s going for his last big score but can his heart keep up the journey he needs to make. Can he ever leave the ring? Will he make amends with his daughter? Aronofsky and Rourke’s slam-jam of a film is surely a contender. Brilliant.

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