Monday, February 02, 2009

The Wrestler

The Wrestler (Darren Aronofsky, 2008) [9]

I believe I've said this before but I believe the right performance can overshadow any detriments the story or film as a whole may have had. This is certainly true of The Wrestler, as Mickey Rourke's performance casts a huge shadow over everything else about the film. It should. Rourke's performance as Randy "The Ram" Robinson is near flawless in almost every way. It's an astounding work of physical acting as well as making Randy a sympathetic character. Every part of Rourke's performance oozes pathos and it's not just because he's playing a has-been wrestler trying to make ends meet. It really boils down to the fact that you recognize that experience and you become invested with Randy as a character, no matter what you're opinion about professional wrestling is. The film and Rourke's performance cut through the world of wrestling and gives a character study of a man who does what he does because that's all he's really good at. As for the film itself, it does create a series of events or moments that funnel the film to that central theme to Randy's existence. I felt that Marissa Tomei's character is used too much in this way. That's not to say that I didn't like her performance; it's very good, but it's clear she's there a lot to push the story a certain way. The same can be said of Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood), Randy's daughter. All that doesn't really matter because the performances of all elevate beyond what they could have been. It's a great compliment for a film and a filmmaker that he or she knows how to rise above some of the lesser elements of the story. As for Aronofsky, this is nothing like his prior efforts, and the film is better for it. His showboaty camerawork and editing would have definitely sunk the gritty realism that is on screen here. It results in a film that works because he knows the strength lies in the characters, and not his overwhelming visual style. The Wrestler is a change for the better.

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