Monday, May 25, 2009

The Wrestler (Aronofsky)

This is probably the best Mickey Rourke/washed-up wrestler/Marisa Tomei as a stripper movie ever. Which is to say that this film has been made a million times before. But as Roger Ebert once put it, "It's not what a movie is about, but how it is about it." And so The Wrestler is about its wrestler in a very authentic and convincing way. I have spent some time in the crappy industrial Northeast of this nation, and let me tell you, The Wrestler oozes that authentic crappy industrial Northeast vibe. Even locales as simple as the schoolroom, or the back office of the supermarket, smack of real places and not movie sets. It's the most honest movie about fake wrestling ever.

You can thank Mickey Rourke. A lot of critics have said that although Rourke's performance is very affecting, it doesn't really "count," because all he's doing is basically playing himself. But I don't necessarily think that great acting means "an actor trying to pretend that he is someone he is not" (a la Sean Penn in Milk). I want to get a sense of the actor's spirit in a performance. I'm talking about Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca. All Humphrey Bogart had to do was "play Bogart." But so what? I'm talking about Diane Keaton in Annie Hall, I'm talking about Michael Douglas in Wonder Boys. Great acting is often as simple as just not doing anything obnoxious. Great acting is brushing vanity aside and having the guts to reveal your own feelings through your character. Besides, he punctures his skin with a staple gun! He sticks his fingers in a meat slicer! Let's see Sean Penn do that, you know?

I do wish that filmmakers these days did not feel they needed to use that crappy, "low-budget" hand-held look to suggest grittiness. I believe that a movie can be "gritty" and yet still employ stately, meticulous cinematography (for example: Taxi Driver, Bonnie and Clyde, The Godfather, etc.). But, then again, that takes time, money, and effort.

When my roommate came back from seeing The Wrestler, he said to me, "You know what message I got from that movie? 'Diversify.' " Randy "The Ram" Robinson is really only good at one thing and one thing only, and that's being Randy "The Ram" Robinson. You'd like to say that people have more to offer the world than just one pathetic thing, but some people really...don't. The essence of the character's limited personality is captured in this memorable exchange:

Randy "The Ram" Robinson: Goddamn they don't make em' like they used to.
Cassidy: Fuckin' 80's man, best shit ever!
Randy "The Ram" Robinson: Bet'chr ass man, Guns N' Roses!
Cassidy: Crue!
Randy "The Ram" Robinson: Yeah!
Cassidy: Def Lep!
Randy "The Ram" Robinson: Then that Cobain pussy had to come around and ruin it all.
Cassidy: Like there's something wrong with just wanting to have a good time?
Randy "The Ram" Robinson: I'll tell you somethin', I hated the fuckin' 90's.
Cassidy: Fuckin' 90's sucked.
Randy "The Ram" Robinson: Fuckin' 90's sucked.

I guess Nirvana were just too introspective for this guy. But just because he's a one-trick pony doesn't mean he's a worthless human being undeserving of our sympathy. If I were his daughter, I'd hate him too. But it's not her movie, it's his. Even shitty wrestler fathers deserve a movie of their own sometimes.

"Film critic" rating: ****
"Little Earl" rating: ***1/2


yoggoth said...

I thought this movie was okay.

I've had a crush on Marisa Tomei since I was 12 or something so I enjoyed seeing her semi-nude. Her character was appealing even as a stripper. Which is to say, she wasn't convincing at all. This isn't her fault, it's just hard for an attractive, well-known person to play a down and out part unless the part is particularly well written. I liked the thematic link between her and The Ram - they both are selling their bodies or what those bodies signify to people. However, I have a hunch the writer identified with The Ram more and was able to make his character convincing because of it.

Rourke does a fine job. He is big and he's got one fucked up face. Perfect wrestler material.

Yoggoth rating: **1/2

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