Movies We Like
Director Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain) returns to his roots by making a film with a bare-bones look reminiscent of his debut Pi. Aronofsky makes a far less polished film than its predecessors, as far as aesthetic design, focusing on performance above all else. The Wrestler is less plot driven than it is about the nature of desires, regret and one “broken down piece of meat”'s last shot at athletic glory.
Mickey Rourke (Barfly, Angel Heart) headlines the film as the wrestler in question, Randy “The Ram” Robinson. Although he did some supporting work in such films as Tony Scott’s Domino and Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City, it is as the title character of this film that Rourke put himself back on the Hollywood map. As a man fighting against time, desperate for one last shot at life in the spotlight before his body fails him, Rourke plays Robinson with unflinching honesty. It is one of those performances when actor and character become so integrally linked that it feels as if you're watching true life unfold. It is a brave and unabashed performance. One of the year’s finest.
Aronofsky switches up his director of photography from Matthew Libatique for DP Maryse Alberti, who gives the film the quasi documentary look and feel. It is shot featuring a lot of hand-held wide shots and extreme close ups on the protagonist. By often following directly behind “The Ram” as he makes his way through his journey, the camera puts the audience right there in his shoes.
Production designer Tim Grimes provides sets and props that provide a real sense of authenticity. It is far from glamorous looking, but done well enough that it becomes a character in its own right. Whether it is Randy’s shabby trailer or the strip club he frequents or in the ring itself, the selection of locales and the film’s set dressing give each set up a feeling of every day reality.
Clint Mansdell teams up with Aronofsky once again to provide the film’s music. It is not as epic as his Requiem for a Dream score, but provides an effective underlying sadness to the film. In addition, Bruce Springsteen was nominated for an Academy Award for his song, “The Wrestler,” which, sadly, is not used until the end credits. As usual when “The Boss” writes a tune for a movie, it’s a solid winner.
Oscar winner Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny, In the Bedroom) plays “Cassidy,” an exotic dancer past her prime, struggling as a single mother. She is a woman who sacrifices happiness for the sake of her child, yearning to be anything but what she is. Tomei is an actress that has only gotten better with time, and she gives a tender and truthful performance that ranks up her among her best.
Evan Rachel Wood (Thirteen) plays Randy’s long estranged lesbian daughter “Stephanie.”
This film is a metaphor for the scars that we suffer in life—inside and out. It’s about the struggle to truly connect, not only with others, but with our own true sense of self. It’s a film about the unending nature of dreams, even at the cost of everything else.
The Wrestler was nominated for two Oscars: Best Actor (Mickey Rourke) and Best Supporting Actress (Marisa Tomei)