Last night I got the chance to see a film that's been getting a lot of people's attention, which is odd for a film of it's stature. And if you can't tell by the poster to the left, or the title of the article, I'm talking about Darren Aronofsky's latest film, The Wrestler.
The film centers around the daily life of professional wrestler, Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Mickey Rourke), who was a star in the eighties, but now, twenty years later, works in a grocery store and does small time fights on the weekends. Randy lives alone in a trailer park for which he can't pay the rent, he hasn't spoken with his daughter in years, and has also taken liking to a stripper, Cassidy (Marisa Tomei). In short, he's just not the man he used to be.
After a local match, a promoter reminds Randy that the twentieth anniversary of his fight with the Ayatollah at Madison Square Garden is coming up, and suggests the two have a rematch. Seeing it as a chance to reboot his career, Randy agrees. However, after a hardcore match, Randy succumbs to a heart attack and the doctor suggests he quit wrestling forever. But all is not well for a man trying to rekindle a relationship with his daughter, and finding love with a stripper, all while trying to make an honest living. The Ram still chooses to go on with the rematch, even if it may cost him his life.
I really hope that didn't spoil it for you. Because to be honest with you, that's the exact same info I knew going into this film, and I still walked out amazed. At the same time, Im sure many of our readers have not heard much of this film, and I'm not even sure if many of you are familiar with the work of Darren Aronofsky, I know I'm not. Same, I assume goes for lead actor Mickey Rourke; though I'm sure you may know him as Marv in Sin City. Never the less, the careers of both these men is unnecessary when seeing this film, as both shine in their roles.
For one, I really have to hand it to Aronofsky for putting this film together on such a low budget. Many a time, films are hurt by their lack of finances, but the result here just works so well. Besides the great acting, the style of the filming really brings this film alive. It's shot in a way that you feel as if you are with the characters; the look is very much like a documentary at parts. And then there's the lead of Randy "The Ram" Robinson, played by Mickey Rourke. At 56, and a former boxer, Rourke fits the part perfectly. He's able to get down right serious as a man on his last lucks, but at the same time he has the personality that will allow you to laugh a few times during the movie.
Then you have your supporting characters. The main one of course being Ram's love interest, Cassidy, who is played by Academy Award winner, Marisa Tomei. While in the end I found her character to be a little unnecessary, she did a good job to emphasize the parallel of how both her and Randy sell their bodies, and the troubles that may cause. And last on the important roles is Randy's daughter Stephanie, played by Evan Rachel Wood, who disowns her father for having never been there for her as a child and refuses to let herself get caught up in his time of need.
As I said I won't spoil anything, but there is one last aspect of the film I wanted to point out. The movie culminates with a song by Bruce Springsteen, "The Wrester", which was donated due to the film's low budget. The track does a wonderful job of ending the film and really sumarizes the character of Randy. And coming from a man that has never been a Springsteen fan, despite being from New Jersey, I hope it says something.
Overall this is a fantastic film, but it's certainly not for everyone. For one, it is rated R, as there adult themes, nudity, and violence; so if any of those aren't your thing you may want to steer clear of this. And don't be put off by the fact that it focuses on wrestling, because in the end that's not what it's about, it's about human life and knowing your place in life. It's truly an emotional work of art, and really goes to show that you can make a great film without a lot of money. You just need to know how to make it work, and that's exactly what director, Darren Aronofsky, and lead, Mickey Rourke, have done.
Overall Score - 9.8/10
Sure, as of writing this Mickey Rourke has won a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama, and Springsteen has won a Golden Globe for Best Original Song. But those don't beat the recognition of a VFH Seal of Approval! I'm sure you don't need much more convincing than what I've already written, but I have to say, no other film within the last year had me as emotionally drawn to it as The Wrestler, and I think that really is why it deserves this award. Hopefully you too will be able to catch this film when it releases nationwide on January 23rd, 2009.