Sunday, January 18, 2015

Overlooked Film of the Week- "The Wrestler" (2008)

Overlooked Film of the Week-#91
The Wrestler
I think after my viewing of "American Sniper," I am more rabid about award circuits than ever before.

I have stated many times that I never let award outcomes bother me. I like to watch the Oscars because I like to see if any awards go to those I deem should be the winner, and also, I always like to see how many nominations I can predict correct. Whether a movie wins awards or not is beside the point. It doesn't matter to me if one of my favorite movies is an Oscar-winner or not, I will always be drunk-in-love with the movies that I love, and no golden statue can take away the feeling I get watching a movie I love.

But sometimes when a winner is so blatantly obvious and they don't win, sometimes the power of that loss can wash over me. Such an event happened during the Oscars of 2009. Mickey Rourke should have won every award he was nominated for that year, and if you have seen "The Wrestler," you'll know why and we will get into it here in just a minute. But when Sean Penn's name was called to the podium, it was enough to send into a manic frenzy. That year I learned these award ceremonies are made up of people with certain opinions. The Academy in particular doesn't care about who truly was the best in each category, they want to sell their own agendas and that just does not ring true to me. Still, to this day, Mickey Rourke gave the best performance by any actor, in any type of character, of 2008, and nothing can take that away from him.

When I saw the first trailer for "The Wrestler," I knew I was going to love it. I can't watch the trailer on YouTube without getting enormously emotional, I watch the trailer and I am drenched in tears. The resulting film is just as heart-wrenching, but is also oddly hopeful. It is a movie about self-sacrifice, about finding a little redemption; no matter how old or broken you are. I think that is a very powerful message, and it can speak to wide array of people.

So as I said, the big draw to this movie is Mickey Rourke. Never has this actor had so much command over the screen, never has this actor been so alive onscreen, and never has a character collided to perfectly with an actor in cinematic history. Randy "The Ram" Robinson is a wash-up veteran in the world of professional wrestling, but he does it past his prime because he doesn't know how to do anything else. Because of this, he left his family and other remnants of a normal life by the wayside. After a rough match, Robinson tries to create a normal life for himself, but the draw to the wrestling ring is more than he can bare. In many ways, Robinson parallels the life of Rourke and watching Robinson bare his soul to rabid, wrestling fans at the end of the film matching Rourke baring his own soul to us. It is some of the most powerful acting in modern cinema, and it will move you if you have not witnessed it.

The work done by Marissa Tomei is sweet, she plays a stripper who gets under the hard exterior of The Ram and is able to steal his heart. Robinson tries desperately to have a meaningful relationship with her, and the scenes between Tomei and Rourke are very good. Then there is Evan Rachel Wood who plays Robinson's estranged daughter. The scenes between Wood and Rourke are often painful but sealed with the promise of true craft. Every time I see these two characters together, it sends a shot through my heart. This is very good acting across the board.

It is kind of odd to me that someone like Darren Aronofsky made "The Wrestler." When you see "Requiem For A Dream," or "Black Swan," or "Pi" or "The Fountain" or even "Noah," there is a certain thematic style than defines an Aronofsky movie. All of the movies listed above are quite stylish and there is a certain dark overtone that Aronofsky loves to play with. With "The Wrestler," Aronofsky adopts an entirely different style, an entirely different overtone and it feels a breath of fresh air, something he would never make, but also something that could not have been made by anybody else.

And the title song by Bruce Springsteen? Kills me every time.

"The Wrestler" was a once in a lifetime moment for both Mickey Rourke and Darren Aronofsky and it is too bad that they were not better represented for their efforts. Still, the undeniable power this movie possesses will shock your system and will remain with you for many years to come.

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