Ack, I never wrote about The Wrestler. Well, there’s not that much new to say, really. It’s fundamentally a simple tearjerker, which is where Darren Aronofsky does a lot of his best work. Like Pi and Requiem for a Dream, he’s telling a story about outsiders. I think that’s his niche as well: people who can’t relate or participate in what we might cynically call the world of the squares. Or marks.
Mickey Rourke is really good. It doesn’t hurt that he’s reiterating his own story of burn out and stupidity, of course; still, he’s really good. I’ve seen a fair number of the movies he’s made in the last five or six years. He’s not just acting the same part repeatedly. He gets the pain and suffering and — eh, call it what it is; Randy “the Ram” Robinson is not smart. I tend to think that’s a commentary on twenty years of concussions, but regardless, Rourke’s playing a dense caring guy with a lot of skill.
This sadly overshadowed Marisa Tomei, who was also really excellent. Pained, cynical, allows her caution to get in the way of happiness — I’ve seen a few reviews which talk about how the two characters are the same story, failure and redemption. But that’s not it. It’s contrast. Rourke is the guy who refuses to be cynical and suffers the consequences. Tomei is the woman who accepts cynicism as a lifestyle and suffers the consequences. Hey, it’s Aronofsky. He is not prone to happy endings.
Now, Mick Foley covered the wrestling realism better than I ever could, but just in case, go ahead and read that last link. The weird beard guy who rips the living shit out of Rourke in the second wrestling scene? That’s Necro Butcher, a staple on the East Coast indie wrestling scene, and that’s what happens. All the wrestling was filmed at actual Northeast promotions. As far as I know, that’s pretty much exactly how it goes down behind the scenes.
Which, yeah. After Benoit, it’s hard to watch wrestling. This was hard for the same reasons. It’s a tearjerker, and I cried, but it’s not melodramatic. It’s too grounded in reality to be melodrama.