I walked out of the theatre from this movie feeling like I had a metal chair smashed over my face after being suplexd onto a mat covered in broken lightbulbs. And I mean that in the best possible way The wrestler brings a level of intensity that you don’t often experience these days. It just hurt so good.
It’s important to know that this movie is as much about plot as is any classic wrestling match. For the sake of condensation here’s how it goes. An aging wrestler is driven further into isolation as an injury forces him to retire. He tries to fill the void left by his exit from the ring by reacquainting himself with his estranged daughter and courting his most favorite stripper. After the real world becomes way more brutal than any number of chairs to the face he makes one final go at glory.
What I thought
The big story surrounding the Wrestler since it won the belt at the Venice Film Festival was the performance of Mickey Rourke, an enigmatic, surgically altered narcissist plucked out of a dead end career who seemed beyond resuscitation by Hollywood standards. There was talk about how Aronofsky —a director known for his often firebrand style– sat Rourke down when they first met, told him to shut his fucking mouth and listen and he would win him an Oscar. It’s a story of two monumental egos managing to work together to create something huge. Within this collaboration It’s almost impossible to parse what’s good acting on the part of Rourke and what’s superb direction on the part of Aronofsky. The reality is that it is an amazing blend of both, and whatever tough talk happened the two needed each other to pull this shit off.
Rourke embodies a broken pro wrestler because he’s been a broken actor who was once a pro boxer. Drugs played a part in his meltdown in real life and play a part in his ultimate demise in the movie. He had a heyday but for the past few years he’s played only enough small roles to be recognized in line at Whole Foods. He never reached the pinnacle to which he aspired. Rourke wanted to be great.
The reason it works is because lives like Rourke’s are the specialty of Aronofsky’s cinematic knife. He specializes in taking the fascinations of utterly determined eccentrics and dissecting how it lead to their destructions. If it’s solving the stock market, getting on a game show, finding a cure for cancer Aronofsky has a penchant for convincing you that talent is nothing more than a curse that will get you strung out on diet pills, covered in staples, or self-lobotomized by a DeWalt paddle bit.
Movies get good when the line between fiction and reality is blurred. This is the reason that Aronofsky just joined the ranks of our generation’s great directors. His choice of using Rourke was the kind of decision that defines the title of greatness. It’s the understanding that the best works of fiction are created by real people covered in genuine blood, sweat, and the painful passage of years. See this movie. 9.5/10