15 Jan Movie Review: The Wrestler
When financiers of the film The Wrestler demanded that director Darren Aronofsky drop Mickey Rourke as the lead actor and replace him with none other than Nicolas Cage, Aronofsky understandably lost his mind. But, after attending a real wrestling match in preparation for the role, Cage saw that his good friend Mickey was chosen to play this role for a reason, and conceded the role. The cost of such a noble deed? Well how about a budget so tiny (approximately $6 million) it makes Boytown’s budget ($6 million) look like an even bigger waste of money. Mickey Rourke and Bruce Springsteen don’t even get a dime unless it rakes in at the box office! All I can say is, get out and see this one, ’cause those fellas deserve some scrilla. At least they can melt down those Golden Globes they won (they’re made of real gold, right?)
I know that if there was such a category, the word “triumph’ would take out the Golden Globe for The Most Overused Word in Film Reviews. But dagnamit, this film is a goddamn TRIUMPH!!!! In a tale of not-quite-overcoming the odds, The Wrestler SINGS the mighty blues Ballad of Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson, a has-been pro-wrestler struggling to climb back up to the top rope of pro-wrestling glory (so he can deliver a stone cold top rope diving headbutt to his opponent). An unnamed know-it-all seems to think the screenplay was based on the pro-wrestler-turned-right-wing public speaker Ultimate Warrior, but I find it hard to believe such an amazing character was inspired by someone so downright unlikeable (the guy thinks its great that Heath Ledger died)! Perhaps Bret Hart was a slight inspiration? Does it really matter?
Mickey Rourke, who like Robinson was at the top of his game in the 80s (Body Heat (1981), Diner (1982), Rumble Fish (1983), Barfly (1987), 9 1/2 Weeks (1986)), and the bottom of his game in the mid 90s (Double Team!) was destined to play this role. Drawing on an untold amount of personal heartache and lessons learnt, his screen presence is the lifeblood of this film. Rourke awakes that gentle beast within and delivers a powerhouse dramatic performance IN FLOURO WRESTLING TIGHTS. If Mickey Rourke does not win the Oscar for Best Performance by a Lead Actor at this year’s Academy Awards, I have privately wagered with friends (and now publicly with you) that I will wear similar flouro wrestling tights FOR A YEAR.
Update 1: Sooooo, Mickey Rourke didn’t win The Oscar for Best Actor. Not going to sit here and yell “ROBBBBBBED!!!!!” It ended up in the hands of Sean Penn for Milk (2008), who already had one for Mystic River (2003), but was absolutely deserving…..nup…can’t do it… ROBBBBBBED!!!!!
Update 2: The father and daughter relationship in The Wrestler was a discussion point/key influence on the father/daughter relationship I created and explored in my thesis film, Tasha. So clearly, I still think it’s preeeetty great. I drone on self-indulgently about Tasha in my Wonder Woman review. I have also engaged in shameless self-promotion by posting a guest Letterboxd review of Tasha here.
Update 3: I did not wear flouro wrestling tights for a year in protest. Copped appropriate amount of flak for ‘reneggage’.
Which leads me to the final, greatest update…..
Mickey’s flying the flag ’til this day. Oh, Mickey. What you do to me.