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The Wrestler (2008)

May 19, 2009

8/10 Flying Headbutts

Mickey Rourke should have won the Oscar for this.

The Wrestler is the story of Randy “The Ram” Robinson, an aging wrestler who is a good decade or two past his prime but nonetheless keeps on ticking as he struggles to reclaim his former glory as king of the ring.

I don’t know if I’ve been out of the loop or something, but has Mickey Rourke always been this awesome? I think Sin City and Diner are the only other movies I’ve seen of his, and while he was good in both, it wasn’t anything to write home about. I guess time and a brief underground boxing stint is just what Rourke needed.

The story of The Wrestler is decent, but it’s been done before. Maybe not with wrestlers, but we should all be familiar with the “washed-up tragic hero trying to regain his 15 minutes of fame” riff by now. This movie reminded me a lot of There Will Be Blood in that it plays out as a kind of soapbox for the actors involved to carry the story along. Not that that’s a bad thing, it landed Daniel Day-Lewis an Oscar after all. But if The Wrestler‘s story was as good as its acting, this movie would be an easy 9 Flying Headbutts.

I’ve never seen the draw to the world of wrestling, probably because I can pretend fight too, but if The Wrestler accomplishes anything over the course of two hours, it does add a kind of legitimacy to the franchise in a way that I thought was impossible. But while it does add a human element to the art of sweating and groaning in Speedos, I still don’t think I’ll be tuning in to Smackdown! any time soon (is that still a thing?).

Going into this movie, I wasn’t expecting to like “The Ram” or be able to connect with him whatsoever. But strangely enough, Rourke somehow makes him into this endearing, passionate lug of a guy who can make you smile on and off the mat. If he asked me to grab a beer and play Nintendo with him, I’d be happy to spend the time.

Even Rachel Wood and Marisa Tomei (nude much?) are also great and deserve the attention that’s been coming their way. It’s great to find a movie where everyone just feels real, like they’re actually interacting with one another instead of acting the way the director tells them to.

And that’s the thing that I loved most about this movie, that a lot of it doesn’t feel scripted. The dialogue for the most part feels very natural and chatty, some of the conversations even had me cracking up. It wasn’t until after that I heard Rourke had actually ad-libbed a number of scenes where he’s talking and interacting with the cast. You’ll be able to point them out immediately, and I don’t usually dig when actors ad-lib for the sake of ad-libbing, but they’re some of the most standout moments the movie has to offer and are a real testament to Rourke’s skills as an actor.

Darren Aronofsky, the movie’s director, also needs to be mentioned. If you’ve never heard of him, IMDB him pronto and Netflix everything he’s done. He’s one of the best filmmakers out there and one of the only guys continuously putting out really good, really edgy shit. Can’t plug this guy enough, man’s a freakin’ genius.

It’s no surprise to me that I liked The Wrestler so much and it really does live up to all the hype. It’s genuinely human, it’s painfully violent, and it’s a movie that’s still running through my head over a month after seeing it. So check it out.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 22, 2009 12:42 pm

    Rourke didn’t win cause he used to be a drug addict and tried to commit suicide, so of course their going to give it to Sean Penn, who after all was playing a homosexual, so there’s an easy Oscar. The director Darren Aronofsky is great but this is so different from the other stuff he’s done like Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain. I noticed the ad-libbing too, and I think Rourke handled it very well.

    • Aiden R permalink*
      July 22, 2009 12:56 pm

      I don’t know about the whole Oscar bias because of his personal life, but he did get robbed. Penn was good though. And yeah, Aronofsky is the man, one of my favorite directors. And yeah, I thought the ad-libbing was the best part of the movie.

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