Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Man on Film: The Wrestler

If there is one thing Darren Aronofsky is capable of, it is leaving his audience in a worse state than they were when they walked into the theater. His methods may not always fire on all cylinders (see: The Fountain), but his films taking place in a contemporary setting have been engrossing even if they are not exceedingly re-watchable. I mean, I loved Requiem for a Dream, but I don't sit down to re-watch it annually. The Wrestler while still sharing rarefied air with Requiem comes as close as Aronofsky has come to making a re-watchable film.

For starters, Mickey Rourke is every bit as good as the myriad accolades his turn at Randy "The Ram" Robinson have said he is. To further add to them would be fairly redundant. It was "the role he was born to play". Evan Rachel Wood was serviceable, which is a compliment from me because hers was a better performance than I thought she was capable of. Her Oscar-nominated turn as Tracy Freeland in Thirteen was one of the most undeserved nominations in recent memory, right up there with anything Juno ended up getting nominated for. In The Wrestler, there was only one moment (in her last scene) where I grimaced at how she spat out a line. In the I-can't-believe-she's-still-this-hot department, Marisa Tomei is in the midst of a respectable comeback. No matter how Aronofsky and crew lit her, she looked pretty spectacular and her late-career commitment to showing off her fantastic body is definitely a positive cinematic development.

As for the film itself, aside from a brief moment towards the end of the film where I thought I was watching an unofficialy sequel to Untamed Heart in which Tomei's Caroline had become a stripper in New Jersey only to fall for another guy with a bad heart, it worked on nearly every level. As far as tales in which the protagonist is a flawed but sympathetic character used and discarded by a society that no longer has a place for him are concerned, this film had enough heart and humor to steer it away from being exceedingly depressing. To say much more, especially this early into its release would be too telling, so I'll stop here. It is certainly worth seeing, if only to have a context for this.

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