263. The Wrestler (US 2008)
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood
Music: Clint Mansell
Cinematography: Maryse Alberti
Screenplay: Robert D Siegel
FACT: Nicholas 'By Jove, Missus -you don't get many of them to the pound' 'Doddy' 'Dot Cotton' 'Horsey Nana' Cage was approached to play the titular role. Hmmm..... titular roles......
LIE: The film is dedicated to Adrian Street.
In one line: American wrestler nearing the end of his career aims for one last shot of glory.
Randy 'The Ram' Robinson was a professional wrestling star in the 1980s. His star has dimmed and he 'ekes' out a living fighting in school halls and other downbeat wrestling arenas. He meets ageing lapdancer Pam (Tomei) and begins a hesitant romance. He also tries to win back his neglected and estranged daughter Stephanie (Wood). A brutal fight with crazed wrestler the 'Necro Butcher' leads to Randy being hospitalised and a warning that he must never fight again. After a soul-sapping stint working behind a supermarket deli counter, Randy decides that he must fight for one last time and the stage is set for a showdown with his eighties rival The Ayatollah*.
The Wrestler has shades of Rocky, John Huston's Fat City and, as, has been pointed out many times Rourke's own fall from grace and redemption. Rourke gives a tremendous performance and should easily have eclipsed Sean Penn's rather unconvincing Harvey Milk in the best actor stakes.
There are many good elements to this film. Rourke 'beefed up' with steroids for the part and performs many of his own fairly dangerous stunts. His performance brings to his mind his own personal troubles, and while it's difficult to feel much sympathy for people who earn so much money, and who have their lives' nightmares catalogued for millions to evince the sympathies that are missing from the average Joe's life, just one look at Rourke's almost destroyed features is enough for even the hardest hard to make an exception. Perhaps.
Tomei gives another great performance. Great acting: more than decent lapdancing.
The fight scenes are convincing. The fight with the Necro Butcher (Dylan Summers) is particularly brutal and has difficult-to-watch denouement.
Aronofsky's direction gives the film an 'indie' look with hand-held, jerky camera work employed to suggest a documentary-like feel, and which also helps to make the narrative seem more believable.
The only jarring note is Randy's big scene with his daughter Stephanie. It's a bit too Hollywood/"Where were you when I needed you, dad?"/"I love you, you bastard" to be completely convincing in a film like this.
It's not the greatest film in the world, but if you stumbled upon The Wrestler (rather than having to endure all its attendant bullshit publicity) you'd be more than satisfied.
*I remember the old days of Bullseye when, if the contestant hit the black instead of the red on Bully's Prize Board, instead of the audience hearing Tony Green's comforting the contestant with 'unlucky', Jim Bowen would 'invent' 'amusing' 'prizes', one of which was 'That's a night out with the Ayatollah'. Obviously, in these more sensitive days, Jim would have a fatwa declared upon him, but.....
....in fact I can't think of anything to go after the 'but', there.
Except perhaps good.