30 December 2008

Review: The Wrestler

Genre: Drama

Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler, a gritty character portrait literally tailor-(re)made for its lead actor Mickey Rourke, clearly ventured no chance to fail to show Mr. Rourke as the title character at his very best (and very worst). A rugged, hulking, hard-plugging amateur wrestler who seems to have acquired all the (affected) patience and bunned reserve of Buddha since his hey-day youth without seeing them fit to make much personal use out of them, Mr. Rourke's Randy "The Ram" Robinson is ultimately a tragic character, Alexandre Dumas' adapted Nutcracker (The Tale of the Nutcracker, 1845) by way of Raging Bull (1980) and 8 Mile (2002), a character once valiant and triumphant but now by circumstance downtrodden and opposed, around whom the rest of the players circulate, flecking pieces of his history like remnants of a dying star, pieces ultimately to close in the gap of his vacancy as he withers and disappears. And, while, I'm sure, of all the poetry in that line Mr. Aronofsky, skillful director of such films as π (1998) and Requiem for a Dream (2000), attempted to waste none in his own meditations and prescriptions about the course of this, his latest film The Wrestler; there was not enough commensurately skillfully effectuated to give the system of the piece true gravitas. Feeling - much like this year's Revolutionary Road, a film also about individuals in ebbing crises - more like a broken series of tenuously connected character vignettes than a coherent and well-constructed biographical narrative or even a coherent and well-constructed non-invasive tragedy, the film tends to eschew coherence in favor of savage and bitter representations of the continuous beatings physical, emotional, and psychological that its title character must endure in his life, never veering around or seriously trying to avoid them but only spacily reaching out to pull in others for the ride - an approach in which, while I can admire it, I cannot find significantly redemptive qualities. Slack and preprogrammed, shabby (but not shoddy), and shakily standing upon nearly forgotten, nearly collapsing emotional detritus, like its characters themselves The Wrestler fails to achieve greatness - despite a fervent want to do so. Thus, to say that the film was a good movie, a streaky portrait of the falling hero who can't help but keep doing what he has always done, be it for the better or the worse, would be an extremely accurate statement; but to go beyond that, beyond Mr. Rourke's grounding performance around and upon which the rest of it all is built and entirely so relies, and say that the film was a great one then would be just as hopelessly but blindly optimistic as Randy and his aging cohorts, both inside and outside the ring, are designed to be.

Grade: B.

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