Posted by: da_nibbler | February 5, 2009

Review: The Wrestler

Not as out there as Darren Aronofsky’s previous films, yet utterly brilliant in its simplicity. Without the director’s usual flourish The Wrestler kicks the viewer in the stomach with its gritty realism and documentary style approach.

Showcasing the life and downfall of former pro-wrestler Randy “The Ram” Robinson, played beautifully by Mickey Rourke, who more than deserves his Golden Globe win and Oscar nomination, Aronofsky captures the too few ups and many downs of Randy’s life with all its physical and mental torture in an appalling and yet enticing way that keeps you glued to the screen. Especially the often used over-the-shoulder shots give the whole film a documentary feel, as if we, the audience, are looking over The Ram’s shoulder as he goes through his life.

On the downward spiral The Ram is wrestling on the semi-pro circuit with all the up and coming youngins. Wrestling is his world, he knows nothing else. When he suffers a heart attack and can’t wrestle anymore it is painstakingly made clear to him that wrestling was all he had. That and a customer-friend relationship with stripper Cassidy, played by overrated Marisa Tomei. After trying to set his life right, including re-establishing a relationship with his estranged daughter, played by Evan Rachel Wood in a rather lackluster performance, everything is shot to hell again and all he has left is one final match – the 20th anniversary of his legendary fight against the Ayatollah.

Aronofksy’s latest film is a love letter to The Ram and Mickey Rourke. Never before has Rourke shone like he does in The Wrestler. From the gruelling matches to the heart-wrenching personal problems, you can’t help but feel with and for him. Walking to that last fight was as exhilarating and painful for us, the audience, as it was for the character. Brilliant performance that should nab that Oscar without much trouble.

Now Marisa Tomei on the other hand doesn’t even deserve her nomination in my opinion. While she does a good job, nothing about her character or her performance is extraordinary. Is she just getting so much buzz because she, as a woman of 44 years old, is playing a stripper and usually dancing around naked whenever she is on screen? Not enough to warrant all the attention she is getting. The whole buzz might just be backwash given Rourke’s terrific performance and her being in an Aronofksy film. Either way, undeserved.

A good film with a brilliant performance by Mickey Rourke. That alone is enough to check this one out. But be warned, the rather depressing subject matter might scare people off. Plus some over the top gory bits in one of the wrestling matches might be too much for some. Not one for the fun film nights, but definitely worth checking out, whether you like wrestling or not. If you’re an Aronofksy fan I don’t have to tell you to go see it.

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