Friday, January 23, 2009

"The Wrestler" (2008) - Movie Review

“The Wrestler” could have been the sappiest film ever made but Darren Aronofsky makes his own by smearing his style, not the one we have seen in his previous three films. Purely working on the indie nature, you see a man going down and down and down till there is no hope. But he goes with a style, he goes doing what he does giving up the life beyond the wrestling ground. This is the story of Randy “The Ram” Robinson (Mickey Rourke) a professional wrestler in a film which does fictional biopic the justice it deserves.

He buys a bunch of different drugs for his joint pains and muscle power from a guy in a gym locker room who can be Bacon from “Lock, Stock and Smoking Barrels” with a friendly face unlike the rough Jason Statham. Then he visits a hair salon and enquires the Asian hair dresser about her family. Then he steps into a tanning saloon saying hi to the receptionist and picks up the key. He shines the body and then brutalizes in all manner possible with an opponent in the ring. They come back with cuts, bruises, blood, stapled, punched and forked. We get up close with his body he sculptured in the morning. This is his life and he has been reigning champion in the 80s but old age is catching up on him.

All the wrestlers gather in their dressing room before the game and the promoter comes in to tell who will be fighting whom. Then they pair and discuss their moves. How they would twist their hands, come back with a punch, a slap on the face and to give the crowd what they want which is the reality and bravery they drool upon, a self induced cut is just about perfect for a fight to get its end. When the WWF came to India on the premier cable channel, it was entertainment like nothing else. It had the classic choreographed stunts from the films but only more real than it and they get one chance when they get on stage. Soon though I identified the plot and the game giving up on its facade as if reality of violence is what a teenager wants. After seeing “The Wrestler” I have a new respect for them. They would hurt themselves so much for the audience. Fame does not seem to be the thing but they see the pleasing of crowd both hate and love with selfless happiness.

While wrestling is primary in the film’s focus, it is about Randy and his body giving up on him both by the pain inflicted and drug injected. He gets a rude awakening through a heart attack after a bloody battle in the ring. Doctor tells him his days are over in the ring and as any one he learns the truth after a normal jog in the morning. He begins to see him as the lonely man he is. There is a heart breaking scene when he goes for fan signing event and looks the other veterans and himself. This is truly the end of his life and he looks for the family he has forgotten.

The film here does not take a plunge in to the atonements of an untied aloof man. He takes one step forward and begins to surface on the days of bright lights under the sun. He begins to pursue a stripper Casidy (Marisa Tomei) more than a private dance and visits her daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) who does not give a damn about him which we come to know he deserves. He understands his mistakes and begin to make amends but what a manner Aronofsky does it.

Mickey Rourke gives everything he has got as his character in the film. He did his own stunts and physically we see Randy. Because Randy is a physical character. His charms are beautiful tanned body and a blond hair representing his American tradition. He is beat and worn and tears are dropped uncontrollably from his eyes. It finds its way because the sorrows have no where to go. Rourke sweats and it is a deserving nomination for his acting ability. Of course Marisa Tomei is like his perfect match and Aronofsky runs her character as an analogy of Randy’s profession. Both depend on the physical appearance and trying to tighten it up to deny their wrinkles.

Aronosky surprises. The last thing I would have expected after a completely independent debut in an unusual sci-fi feature “Pi” followed by a dark, dreary and disturbing tale about addiction in “Requiem for a Dream” and then a visual exhibition on the concept of death in “The Fountain” to come up with a film like “The Wrestler”. He follows the characters from the back almost all the time. He sidles them and I could never explain why he does that but it helps the film in subtle ways. It is as if there is an entrance opening towards the floods of audience roaring their support inviting him to the ring he loves banging his opponent and himself.

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