Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Wrestler (2008)

Okay where do I begin? "The Wrestler" is a movie filled with heart & brutality, and it is Mickey Rourke's portrayal of Randy 'The Ram' Robinson that makes this film what it is. There are also great performances by Marisa Tomei as Cassidy, and Evan Rachel Wood as Stephanie Robinson. Darren Aronofsky is the director of this film and again like with Pi and Requiem for a Dream Aronofsky creates a world that you cannot take your eyes off of. When you think the film is going one way Aronofsky takes you in a different direction.

There is so much that could have gone wrong with this film that doesn't. Robert D. Siegel wrote the "Wrestler", and in it their is a lot of truth in it. The film is about Randy 'The Ram' Robinson who after twenty years is still wrestling. Only this time it's to smaller crowds, and less money. Robinson works in a supermarket, and lives in a trailer park. He frequents a strip club where
Marisa Tomei's character Cassidy works. Though you think there are some sparks between the wrestler and the stripper there are problems, and Aronofsky takes us on a real journey into reality where there are no Hollywood endings. Not to give the ending away, but the end winds up realistic and satisfying. In the end I guess it's the only way the film could have ended without it being phony.

The two glimpses that Aronofsky gives us into Marisa Tomei's character Cassidy and Mickey Rourke's character Randy 'The Ram' Robinson are two sides of the coin. It is when the spirit is strong and the body is weak from age. In a way the movie sang to me about growing old, and dreams dying hard. Something that isn't easy to write about and less easier to film. The cinematography enhances the films look and feel. There is a lot of hand held work which I thought a bit daring, but probably more necessary since the production shot in real locations. The grain in the picture seems excessive, but I like the look, and it works for the film.

On NPR the program Fresh Air did an interview with Aronofsky which should be heard if your a filmmaker or are interested in how low budget film making works. Of course that said "The Wrestler" was shot for $6 million dollars, and to Hollywood that is very low. It was only on the festival circuit that the film finally got picked up by Fox Searchlight pictures. To date the film has made over $13 million, and that's only in limited release. Both Rourke and Tomei are both nominated for Academy awards, and deservedly so. I know I'll be rooting for Rourke & Tomei, and if the Academy does pass them over I will seriously curse out the TV set. It's great to hear about the awards that it is garnering, and I hope it translates into money for the picture. This film has heart, and in some way I'd like to see it get the acknowledgement it deserves.

I can't say enough good things about this film. You'll come out of it feeling exhilarated, and singing some pretty old 80's medal songs. Bruce Springsteen wrote a song for the movie, and it works so well here. The song sums the movie up and gives the film meaning. You will be humming it as you walk out the theater door. The film is rough, and shows how wrestling has changed, and there is no shortage of blood here. Rourke's performance is fantastic. I've been a sort of admirer of his since The Pope of Greenwich Village, and though he has been in some awful movies he still is one hell of an actor. It's very interesting to hear Aronofsky talk about doing ad-lib in the film with Rourke. In an interview Aronofsky says of Rourke that he has more talent in his pinkie then most actors have in their whole body, and he is right. The Wrestler proves that. Pairing Rourke here with Marisa Tomei is also a casting coups d'├ętat. Having such high caliber actors in a film with a good story is what makes this film special. There are no phony performances here. All feels real, and it is. It is this no holds bar look into the movies characters lives that sells the film along with strong direction by Darren Aronofsky. Go see "The Wrestler" I don't think you'll regret it if you like good cinema.

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