Sunday, 31 May 2009

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Wrestler

I hope to god that there is no degree of favouritism at hand while I review this film, seeing as how I have been (and still am) a wrestling fan. I keep up with the going ons of the business and gain insiders knowledge on the behind-the-scenes stuff that no one sees through books, videos and of course, the internet. So to see a wrestling movie, never mind a damn good one, is a feeling which is completely unique to my experience with this film. So, story goes is that Mickey Rourke plays Randy "The Ram" Robinson, a down-and-out, past his prime wrestler, who has failed to keep connected to his daughter, and seeks solace on occasion with Cassidy, a stripper played by Marisa Tomei. Now, I just wrote that this was a damn good film. Personally, "damn good" would not be giving this marvellous piece of work much justice. For starters, the lead performance by Mickey Rourke is the best lead acting performance that I have seen over the past couple of years. Whereas most recent Best Actor winners have received their awards in very extravagant and domineering roles, Rourke's performance in this, of which is certainly Oscar worthy, is that of a poetic minimalism. His performance, grand as it is, is rather more based on the fine little nuances of realism, which lend greatly to his performance and the overall film itself. I would love to see him win the Oscar, because of most of the great performances of recent memory; they have come from supporting roles. Think of Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh, Heath Ledger as The Joker, and even Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin, all are great performances, but they really are not the centre of the film. Rourke's performance in the film, of which he is in virtually every scene, carries the film, and thus in that sense deserves great recognition. This is a character that thanks to Rourke we can believe exists. He is as flawed and as contradictory as every one of us, attempting to reconnect with his daughter, while at the same time indulging himself with drugs and alcohol. I am not even going to give away spoilers, but Rourke's performance grabs our sympathy through the use of infinite charm, humour and kindness. Also acting as a great counterpart to the role of Rourke is the performance by Marisa Tomei as Cassidy. She too has reached the same stage as Randy, past her prime, but unlike Randy, she has the smarts for realising that at some stage, she will have to finish. Tomei injects so much likability into her character that we come to know her as well as Randy, and thus with her realistic performance we come to see her as the perfect counterpart to Rourke. We realise that she is rather intelligent, whereas Randy does not really seem that way, more of an animal, doing what he must to survive. Thus Tomei too must be credited because her performance is so good in the supporting role of Cassidy that it in fact helps enhance the performance of Rourke. This is one of the best "acting" movies that I have seen in years, with Rourke, Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood in her minimal role contributing to the real human drama at heart here, not just some wrestling movie. That said, Darren Aronofsky must be acknowledged, for this is his directorial movie, and as good as he is, is forever bound to be overlooked by the film's advertising moniker of "Mickey Rourke's comeback film." Personally, I have not seen Pi or The Fountain, but I love Requiem For A Dream. Both that and The Wrestler are both similar in style, and while Aronofsky may not seem the logical choice to direct this film, if you look outside the box, it is easy to believe he is the only person to direct this film. His hyper-realistic style, of which was also beautifully on display in Requiem, is perfect for this film, which while being a wrestling movie, is essentially a drama at heart. The poeticism in the non-wrestling scenes are masterfully counterbalanced with the brutality of the wrestling scenes, of which are certainly not for the squeamish. There are also a number of other elements of which this film deserves to credited. For example, there is a wonderful script here by Robert Siegel, catering both to the actors performing the dialogue and the overall film itself. It is structured brilliantly, and every little plot detail becomes a great revelation. Also, the cinematography is superb, catering well to the directing style of Aronofsky. Maryse Alberti, who has recently worked on Taxi To The Dark Side and Gonzo, two documentaries, lends her obvious experience to the film, making sure that even bleak, grungy and dirty can be beautiful. Finally, the music of the film is by Aronofsky's regular composer Clint Mansell, who clearly collaborated brilliantly with Aronofsky, composing one of the great scores of the year. Do I have even a solitary gripe about this film? Unfortunately, yes. Personally, I feel that Evan Rachel Wood's performance pales in comparison to the other two leads, Rourke and Tomei. She does not get enough time to create a plausible character, thus indicating a script structure problem, and her performance seems erratic as a result. Nonetheless, she does her best with what she’s got to deal with, as do everyone in the film. If this were the metaphorical golden cow, it probably would have been milked dry by now. Despite one little flaw, it is evened out by all the good it has to offer, giving us a heart-breaking, humorous, depressing and uplifting movie which is as contradictory and ironic (in a good way) as The Ram himself. An absolute masterpiece.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 9.8/10

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