I am a pussy. Self confessed, unapologetic big girl’s blouse. The relevance of this revelation to a review about Wrestling is that for half the film I could barely look, as two people beat seven shades of shite out of each other. And secondly, just the trailer for ‘The Wrestler’ had me emotionally involved to the point of tears.
You’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve seen ‘The Wrestler’ all before. A lonely, washed up sportsman with his glory days behind him is given the chance for one last shot at adulation. His offspring won’t talk to him and a new love interest has his head turned. So far, so Rocky Balboa.
But while the 18th and final ‘Rocky’ film wasn’t a bad attempt at a by-the-numbers sports flick, ‘The Wrestler’ is a bone-fide certified classic. To say that this is all down to Mickey Rourke would be a disservice to the rest of the cast and crew so before I start fellating the old man with lovely words let’s kudos check the others.
Darren Aronofsky is making a hell of a name for himself as the most versatile filmmaker out there today. Much as ‘Requiem For A Dream’ and ‘The Fountain’ may have divided opinion more than the Gaza Strip, no-one can argue that the man can’t put his own stamp on a movie. With the static camera approach of his last two gone he returns to the freedom of the handheld camera of ‘Pi’. With it, Aronofsky finds every little moment of pain, joy and heartache.
Helping Mickey out are Rachel Evan Wood, as his estranged daughter and Marisa Tomei as a stripper whose glory days are also now just a fond memory. While the former features in the one scene that broke me (dancing in a warehouse, what is it with cinematic dancing and me crying?) the latter sticks in your mind by bringing across the fear and frustration of being too old to do what you’ve always done.
Which neatly brings us to Mickey Rourke. Hollywood fuck-up extraordinaire. Rourke was hailed as the next Brando before drugs, women and ego saw him disappear from sight. If ever a man was born to play a character its Mickey and Randy, The Ram. While they may have differing endings, you can see in both their eyes the same mantra running through their mind. “Don’t fuck it up, don’t fuck it up…”
The final heartbreaking speech was written by the man himself, as he calls it his ‘Indianapolis shit’, and it perfectly encapsulates both character and actor. Not even Daniel Day-Lewis has gone this method before. An entire lifetime’s worth of preparation, leaving one incredible performance in one incredible film.
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