Sunday, December 28, 2008

Review - The Wrestler

Randy "The Ram" Robinson in the 1980s was a larger than life pro wrestler. Twenty years later, his career is in no way as illustrious. Randy is bruised, battered and alone working for severely less money on the independent wrestling circuit. After a heart attack that forces the "The Ram" to retire, Randy reaches out to the daughter he alienated during his career and a local stripper he looks to for companionship. Randy's passion for wrestling however, threatens to pull him back in regardless of health, when a 20 year anniversary rematch of his biggest rival, "The Ayatollah" looms.

Darren Aronofsky delivers in The Wrestler a powerhouse of a drama, that rewards in storytelling and the outstanding performances of its cast. The suttle storytelling weaves Randy "The Ram" Robinson's heart wrenching tale late in his career, focusing on his passion for the art of wrestling, the allure of the ring, his broken relationship with his twenty-something daughter and his hope to create a romance with a local stripper. Each layer of Randy's life is elegantly displayed on screen by Aronofsky and flawlessly played by Mickey Rourke. The combination of Aronofsky's direction mixed with Rourke's Academy Award worthy performance, makes for a wonderful film that really packs a huge punch and a fistful of heart.

The cinematography used throughout The Wrestler is captivating and feels near to a documentary film that is chronicling Randy "The Ram's" later years. The camera work utilized during all of "The Ram's" matches accurately captures the gritty nature to the sport. The film furthermore, does a superb job of presenting the simulation in a less than appealing light, one that may be hard to take in moments for some viewers. Aronofsky uses a in your face technique that pays off both in the wrestling matches and in the evaluation of Robinson's remorse filled life.

Mickey Rourke delivers 2008's pinnacle performance as Randy "The Ram" Robinson, in a ressurecting role that feels all too close to Rourke's real life career. Rourke's unsurpassed portrayal comes across so raw and natural, that every moment on screen, the viewer is instantly drawn into his regret filled life. His performance during the wrestling matches are absolutely gut wrenching to watch and his scenes shared with Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood, leave the viewer surrounded with the same emptiness that Randy "The Ram" faces. The decision of Mickey Rourke to adapt all of his dialogue into his own vernacular as Randy, works brilliantly and adds in creating an all around pure embodiment to the role that goes unmatched in 2008.

Marisa Tomei is equally impressive as Cassidy, an exotic dancer that Randy frequents in a local New Jersey strip club. Tomei under Aronofsky's brilliant direction, vividly portrays an aged single parent who longs for something more than her empty occupation. Through subtle scenes within the strip club, Tomei clearly displays the deep void she feels in her occupation. These moments on screen are deeply moving and leave the viewer attached to Cassidy's betterment. Aronofsky's focus on the contrast between the void Cassidy feels at her job and the adoration Randy has for his profession is mesmorizing and mixed with both Tomei's and Rourke's touching performances, The Wrestler is a sight to behold.

The original story written by Robert Siegel is dynamically mixed with the rock bottom lows of a physically and emotionally battered man to the extreme emotional highs he feels inside the ring and infront of his fans. Rourke's unblemished performance is highlighted with his more human moments that come from Siegel's script. Rourke's moments as a deli server at the local ACME grocery store, warms the heart, while he slops out egg salad to a customer and tells him to, "go long" as he passes the egg salad into his basket. His playful nature with the local kids in his mobile home park. His wise and father-like nature that he represents to the younger wrestlers he works with. All of these contribute to Rourke's miraculous performance. Rourke's most meaningful moment however, comes from a shared scene with his estranged daughter Stephanie, played by Evan Rachel Wood. Randy takes his daughter to the Jersey boardwalk he use to frequent with her as a child and the two share some tear inducing dialogue that is flawlessly written by Siegel and exceptionally played by the two actors.

Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler is a perfect film. It has an oustanding story that entices the viewer in with its raw energy and true human emotions. The performances are staggering to say the least and anything less than an Oscar for Rourke, would deserve outrage. Aronofsky's vision throughout provides a magnetic look inside the life of a battered wrestler and provokes an energy and realism that is irreproachable. The Wrestler will build you up and break your heart with it's glorious story of a wounded hero whose only solace comes from inside of the ring.