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Non-Review Review: The Wrestler

The Wrestler was one of my award-season purchases that arrived on schedule (I waited two weeks for Frost/Nixon and Milk has still to arrive), so the family sat down to watch the one movie that we’d heard could have been a contender, to mix our sporting film metaphors. Was it a world champion, or just a bunch of sweaty has-beens trying to recapture their glory days?

I know steroids explain the muscles, but what's up with that hair?

I know steroids explain the muscles, but what's up with that hair?

We all quite enjoyed it. Well, except Mom, who couldn’t want some of the more brutal fight scenes (though they are nothing compared to hardcore Aronofsky). Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a solid-gold classic, but it was a sweet little movie with a big heart. Darren Aronofsky proves what most of us suspected after The Fountain – he works best on small projects or guerilla film making. This is a cheap movie that never feels cheap.

Part of the reason for that is the top notch talent involved. This is Mickey Rourke at his finest. He earned that nomination by pouring his heart and soul into the role. Yes, Randy might not be all he could have been, but Rourke leaves us with a certain sympathy for a man who tries to do the right thing, but can’t do anything other than what he knows. Marisa Tomei is as solid as ever and continues to be one of the best actresses working today. This film represents one of the rare occasions where she has found a project worthy of her talent.

The movie isn’t especially big or grand or epic – in fact, it feels quite rushed, with a slightly unsatisfactory ambiguous ending. Perhaps that’s a reflection of the lead character himself. It is by no means the best film at last year. It is, however, a reflection on the year that was. Amid the misfiring grandiose prestige pictures and epics, it’s a small and intimate film that offers viewers an insight into a life they would not normally have had the opportunity to explore. And it’s a very, very good small and intimate film anchored in two outstanding performances.
The Wrestler is directed by Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Requiem for a Dream) and stars Mickey Rourke (Sin City, Iron Man 2) and Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinnie, Chaplin). It was released in the USA on 30th January 2009 (with an earlier limited release for Oscar eligibility) and was released in the UK and Ireland on 16th January 2009.

2 Responses

  1. […] of what are generally considered to be stronger films (last year’s examples would be Wall-E, The Wrestler, Gran Torino, The Dark Knight and even Iron Man or Vicky Christina Barcelona). However, my problem […]

  2. […] of earlier winners like Crash – it was far more ambiguous and too rough around the edges. The Wrestler was just too rough, despite solid performances. Wall-E was animated – it should know its […]

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