Monday, December 29, 2008

Film Review: "The Wrestler"

by Eric Green

There are some films that are not for the weak at heart or stomach. Darren Aronofsky's, "The Wrestler," is one of the films. What makes the difficult scenes to not witness is that they are so much integral to the film they should be watched, as much as possible. That said, I turned my head a lot!

If there was ever a film role ever meant for an actor it is Mickey Rourke's portrayal of Randy "the Ram" Robinson, an aging professional wrestler who after years of service is now relegated to semi-professional, small, under the radar, venues. This wrestling circuit has no regulations governing this "sport."

Add to that scenario an aging stripper to the mix, Cassidy/Pam, academy awardly played by Marisa Tomei; and, you have a film that is quite amazing. Evan Rachel Wood playing Jennifer, Robinson's estranged daughter, gives a family/friendship triangle that is creatively developed for the screen.

The film's importance was best demonstrated through Aronofsky's credits at the end when he displayed many from the wrestling community to whom, in a sense, the film was dedicated. This goes along with the great locations for the filming; deep in the heart of New Jersey with everything that that means. Wrestling websites are very positive about the film, saying that it is a very realistic portrayal of their lives and activities.

There is an air of predictability about the film, but, given the guts of the film, that would be inevitable. But, even with those thoughts lurking in the back of your heard as you watch the film, there is so much more that overcomes that inevitable outcome.

The wrestling scenes were clearly played by Rourke. No way that a stand in, given the nature of the film, could have been used. And, given Rourke's real life boxing experience, it wasn't necessary. He is clearly aware of the abuse that an athlete can endure and give out. A professional wrestler by the name of Afa Anoa'I was hired to give the technical advise to Rourke.

Rourke was a professional boxer for a few years and won many fights.

At first and even second, you have to ask yourself; what does this barbaric, grotesque entertainment "sport" have to do with me? Don't worry, as time passes, a few hours after you leave the theatre, it will hit home.

Randy's way of dealing with the end of his career as a wrestling entertainer may have a gruesome end, but for other professional athletes, especially boxers, coping with the same issues, the end isn't that much different. For other workers and professionals who are put out to pasture when their playing days are not longer wanted; and, are relegated to the sidelines of life, this film will hit home. It may take a few more years and less violent for some of us, but the emotional aspects are definitely universal.

But, the ultimate kudos for this film must go to its director, Darren Aronofsky. The film moves at a quick, even pace; characters are developed alone and then in combination with others. The attention to details is amazing. The world of professional wrestling and its fan base is done without judgment; after all, these same things happen in professional baseball, football, etc., i.e., "fan days," etc.

The "fake" aspects of wrestling are not hidden, but "fake" as they might be, the physical abuse that these workers take is over-the-top.

The final event of the film, is a great original written and sung by Bruce Springsteen, appropriately called, "the Wrestler." Springsteen met and paled around with Rourke when he was in Los Angeles in 1898-90. Often going motorcycle riding together. They remained friends thereafter..

Springsteen was aware of the film being produced and during his tour in Europe in 2008, he wrote this song and offered it to Aronofsky. He put the song, done acoustically, where it belonged, i.e., at the end covering the film's credits. It wraps the whole film together.

This is a very crude film, about a very crude existence. If you can handle it….see it.