Friday, August 21, 2009

The Wrestler

Have in mind that I went into this film without knowing who on earth Darren Aronofsky is. From what I've heard, I wouldn't have the patience to watch many of Aronofsky's films. However, I actually liked The Wrestler mostly for its simplicity although I abhor wrestling as much as fights in hockey.

Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Mickey Rourke) was a superstar of wrestling in the 1980s. Twenty years later, Randy has difficulty to make ends meet, is still wrestling in small-scale events for a small pay and is in a worrisome physical condition (because of his devotion to wrestling). Obviously, Randy sees a glimmer of hope when a promoter wants to organize an important rematch between Randy and his old rival, The Ayatollah. However, since his health problems force him to contemplate retiring, Randy tries to endure his day work in a grocery store, build bridges with his estranged daughter, Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood), and be more than just friends with Pam (Marisa Tomei), an ageing stripper known as "Cassidy".

From left to right: Evan Rachel Wood and Mickey Rourke.

First of all, there was a scene in the film where I could barely take the violence. After all, who - among movie viewers - would remain indifferent when two wrestlers are using a stapler, glass and barbed wire among other things in their confrontation? Even though this violence takes you out of your comfort zone, director Darren Aronofsky knows how to justify its presence. In a nutshell, the wrestling scenes are an unpleasant commentary about "martial" entertainment: the more blood/intensity the public sees, the more it feels in seventh heaven.

Mickey Rourke in a wrestling scene.

Moreover, Aronofsky, as an artist, skillfully uses this commentary to build a memorable character that we can care about. As enthusiasts of wrestling give their attention to Randy, they don't, as the film suggests, see the both the psychological and physical pains felt by him. Of course, such a thing is well depicted by Mickey Rourke. In public, Randy tries to look as tough as possible despite what he goes through. Nonetheless, behind the curtains, we see a character who wants to quit wrestling and, at the same time, stay in it because he fears losing his identity within society (and hence be an average Joe leaving his glory behind).

With that in mind, the film shifts with ease from a sport drama to a romance drama and also a drama. In the first case, the film (especially in its final scene) shows well the difficulty Randy has to bring his relation with Pam to the next level. In addition to that, the film makes us wonder if Randy is ever going to successfuly build the bridge between his daughter - who is finely played by Evan Rachel Wood - and him. By using these two unpleasant things from Randy's life, we wonder if Randy will 1) fix these problems by staying in wrestling or 2) quitting it.

Finally, I've heard that The Wrestler is Darren Aronofsky's most acclaimed film. Obviously, even though this is the first film I see from him, I honestly believe that it deserved all the praises it got. For that matter, I raise my two thumbs up in honour to the scriptwriter's ability to insert layers of subtlety that allow the characters to be fascinating even though their social background doesn't have a great appeal to many of us.

Rating: 4.5/5

If you're looking for the parody of The Wrestler's trailer click here.

Origin:USA/France (2008)
Length:111 minutes
Screenplay:Robert D. Seigel
Director:Darren Aronofsky
Starring:Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood

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