Saturday, May 16, 2009

the wrestler [2008]

i'm on record as being a huge fan of mickey rourke. huuuuuge. i came to this movie expecting to love it all to hell. the film is a bang-up job and rourke is very, very good in the movie. not knowing the director, darren aronofsky, previous work i wasn't quite sure what to expect. the movie is grittily photographed and aronofsky has a near-fetish for the details of damaged human skin. every tattoo, each cut and spots of blood, bruises and scars are nearly hymned to the heavens. the wrestling bouts are brutal, roman fetes of violence, i nearly expected lions to be thrown into the ring.

still, even if the direction is solid while rourke did a memorable job of portraying a seriously fucked up soul who tries to make things right but simply is unable to do so, the story itself is predictable. the hand-held camera work i think behaved like a structural device which framed randy 'the ram's' life inside and outside the ring so that even on the job working as a clerk at a grocery store becomes a performance just like inside the squared circle of a wrestling match.

but even so, the ending was telegraphed at the second reel. and rourke, brilliant actor that he is, was not the scene stealer. that honor goes to marisa tomei who is near miraculous as the ram's counterpoint in despair. tomei's stripper character, pam - stage name, cassidy - is also aging in a field that prizes youth and novelty. hers is a tour de force performance and when pam softens to the advances of randy i was utterly transported by the complexities of her character.

tomei is what made the movie for me. she is a great actor. the wrestler is a very good film but lacks i don't know what. i'm happy to see rourke get serious attention again. he is a first-rate talent. but perhaps this wasn't his movie to show his chops again. maybe i should lay the blame on the director, but really, the conclusion of the movie was, even if the most obvious, necessary. sometimes fuck ups remain fucked up.


At 9:36 PM, Blogger J.H. Stotts said...

my wife asked me a question today about staples and what would happen if she stapled herself. i told her: watch 'the wrestler.'

At 11:13 PM, Blogger richard lopez said...

well, when that one guy stapled a 5 dollar note to his forehead, i was cringing. i was think about that today because wouldn't the staple have stuck to his skull? shit, i get sick just thinking about that.

At 8:34 PM, Blogger Catalin said...

You should listen to the interview with the director by Terri Gross. I haven't seen the movie yet, but the interview was good. The director was planning on rourke all along but had a hard time getting funding because apparently nobody was interested in backing a mickey rourke movie, despite this seeming like the perfect vehicle for him. I didn't even want to see it at first on the big screen because I wasn't sure I wanted to see his face up that close and big. Interesting what you said about the skin, because that's part of what I expect to be revolted by. Still, I do want to see it.

At 9:43 PM, Blogger richard lopez said...

hey cat:

i did hear gross's interview with aronofsky, twice. it was aired when the movie was in wide-release and aired a second time for the dvd.

it is a very good movie, but i think ultimately flawed. not sure of aronoksy's direction, as if he played the camera like it was a kazoo rather than a trumpet. some sounds can be quite jittery and otherworldy coming from a kazoo but finally a kazoo has only one note. and for this flick that one note was, despair.

and that unfortunately was very preedictable. rourke's character is a loser writ large and remains a loser thru the length of the film.

i'd been contrasting this role to another of rourke's most famous characters, hank chinaski, in BARFLY. i prefer this flick because the grit of chinaski's life is choreographed and photographed with a graceful naturalism.

rourke's chinaski is a loser but perserveres in a state of losing. quite an achievement and makes the viewer consider that the art of losing is indeed hard to master. that for some to win means to lose it all.

and that's not how i viewed THE WRESTLER. a better flick would've been a movie based on tomei's character as she transforms herself thru the half-hearted ministrations of a character like randy 'the ram'. tomei was utterly great in this movie. rourke is a great actor but rather one dimensional. tomei was a universer unto herself.


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