March 3rd, 2009


Movie Review: The Wrestler

The Wrestler appears to be a departure for Darren Aronofsky, given his penchant for making fucked up & twisted affairs like Requiem for a Dream, Pi, and even the mostly underrated The Fountain. Then I check out his IMDB page and it says he's making a film called The Fighter about some boxer, starring Mark Wahlberg, followed the year after by a remake of RoboCop and now I don't know what to think.

I have a feeling The Fountain, starring Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz, was Aronofsky's trial attempt at breaking into the mainstream. Too bad his weirdness stepped front and center, along with some tree from the Garden of Eden whose bark, when eaten, gives you eternal life inside some floating orb that seems to be on an unending ascent to Heaven. Or something, I'm not sure I exactly understand what's going on. Nevertheless, The Fountain failed to bring in the Macy's crowd, and it sure as shit alienated his once strong Buffalo Exchange crowd.

Driven to the brink of sanity, The Wrestler will surely end up being Aronofsky's American Graffiti, if not his outright The Godfather.

Of course, I liked this movie, but I can't tell how much, really. On the one hand, it's brutal and dark and sometimes nauseating. You think you know about the fakeness of professional wrestling, but what you don't know would astound you. Not that this is necessarily a documentary or anything, I bet it's still not that far off from what low-level pro wrestling is all about. Far from the sheen and the chicanery of what you'd see on Monday Night Raw. These are the kids breaking in, just trying to make a name for themselves; the veterans who never really got a fair shake; the lifers in it for the love of the game, or because they just don't know what else to do.

There's a scene where Randy The Ram Robinson is at some VFW dining room with a bunch of other old timers. They're peddling their wares, taking Polaroid pictures for children who have no idea who they are, sitting around bullshitting about the glory days as nominal fans trickle in and out to get a cheap autograph. The Ram is old and washed up and everything you've heard about and then some, but he's sitting there, still in the game, fresh from a recent victory in the ring, looking around the room at these truly broken down, limb-less, clinging-for-dear-life sacks of shit, and The Ram has to make a decision. Is this what he has to look forward to for the next 30 years, should he be so unfortunate as to live that long? Hauling around a gym bag full of old VHS highlight tapes, posing for pictures with a smile plastered on his face for people who shouldn't give a damn to begin with, that's no way for The Ram to go out!

Believe me, though, this movie isn't all slitting your wrists and curling up inside a bottle of booze. There's humor. That pussy Cobain surely did ruin the classic metal music of the 80s, I'll concur with that. And Todd Barry as The Ram's supermarket boss is quite possibly the most inspired actor cast in any movie this year; definitely worthy of a 2008 supporting actor nomination that would never in a million years come his way. And there's tits! Lo, what a glorious set of pierced nipples rest upon the firm-yet-supple rack of Marisa Tomei! Of course, she's entirely mis-cast, because she's supposed to be this 40-something stripper/mother-of-one who is equally on HER last legs in her chosen profession, what with the fact that bachellors mock her and patrons deny her obviously experienced attempts at lap-affection - yet when you look at her body, you don't SEE an over-the-hill stripper who should be shunned by discerning creeps. You see someone who you'd bite your left index finger off for just the opportunity to smell her panties, but then again, that's Hollywood. Just be glad Hollywood didn't get their way when they wanted to give Nicolas Cage $15 million to play The Ram over Mickey Rourke. I wish I was joking about that.

In the end, though, it's all about The Ram. He's a fuck up who ends up fucking up one too many times. When you think he's about to get his life together: retiring from the fake sport that's literally killing him, making amends with his estranged daughter, trying to initiate a romantic relationship with the aforementioned stripper; everything looks primed for a Happily Ever After conclusion. Such as real life, when the going gets good, it gets good in spades. And, such as real life, the going can get bad in a real fucking hurry if you take your foot off the gas. A night out with a starfucker and some blow. Sleeping in through a dinner date. Shot down by the one you love. And all of a sudden that job in the grocery store deli isn't such a riot. All of a sudden you've got nothing else to lose because you've managed to systematically piss it all away. All of a sudden, when one glimmer of hope returns to your haggard and lifeless eye, you've already written yourself off in the name of reclaiming what was once rightfully yours.

It ends like it begins. The ring, the roar of the crowd, standing on top of the ropes readying your signature finishing move. Listen to the people, it's all for you. It's all you've ever needed.