Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Wrestler

Title: The Wrestler (2008)
Dir: Darren Aronofsky
Rating: ****1/2 out of 5 stars

A lot of movies have focused on the rise and fall of the lead character, but The Wrestler is about the aftermath of a fall. Mickey Rourke portrays Randy "The Ram", a washed up professional wrestler who works at a supermarket and does small-time wrestling stints on weekends. Once a huge star, he now lives broke and alone in a trailer park. After a heart attack threatens to end his wrestling gigs, Randy tries to adapt to a life without the job he loves.

Not wanting to be alone anymore, he chases the affections of a stripper (Marisa Tomei) who won't let herself get too close to him. He also tries to make amends with the daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) he abandoned years ago, but this proves very difficult as his little girl is now a stranger. One who hates his guts, no less.

Both actresses are great but Rourke is just phenomenal here. He can be simultaneously entertaining and heartbreaking to watch. Physically, he is perfectly cast - he looks like an 80s wrestling star, and his face ain't exactly pretty anymore. But Rourke delivers more than just the right look and gives an unforgettable performance. The fact that he could - and probably will - steal the Best Actor Oscar from Sean Penn this year is a testament to how amazing he is in The Wrestler.

The story is tragic and yet uplifting, and it is beautifully told by Aronofsky (as always). It is very unlike his other films, which is a pleasant surprise. Not unlike his other films, it continues to haunt me long after I watched it. The story and characters feel so real, and I never thought I would enjoy watching real life so much. Life is rough, and I usually don't like watching movies about that fact. But this one is a reminder of how precious life is and why it is so important to do what you love and share it with the people you care about.

Finally, I must mention the film's theme song, "The Wrestler" by Bruce Springsteen because its lyrics beautifully summarize the movie and it makes me tear up a little everytime I hear it. Do yourself a favor and buy/download that song (after you watch the movie, of course).