Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Wrestler

Caught Sunday afternoon showing of Aronofsky's The Wrestler. Damn, what a great movie. It does exactly what a great movie should do: it opens up a doorway into another world, a world you didn't know existed, then yanks you inside. It says: Here's what it looks like. Here's how the people think, how they talk, how they feel.

Mickey Rourke (who unrecognizable from the Rourke of Angel Heart/Barfly days — he pretty much looks like his Marv character from Sin City) plays Randy "the Ram" Robinson — a washed up wrestler who hit his peak in the late 80s.* He was huge back then. Since then, things ain't worked out.

Randy (in a deliberate parallel to Mel Gibson's S&M Jesus) rips his body to shreds on the weekends as a wrestler, slashing himself with hidden razors for blood effects, shooting steroids, and impacting himself with barbed wire, tables, chairs, whatever. During the week, Randy suffers even greater psychic pain working in a Joe Job for a dickless, shmuck boss who goes to great lengths to make him eat shit. He takes it all with good humor and grace. His non-girlfriend girlfriend is a pole-dancer in a titty bar who's not allowed to fraternize with customers. Like Randy, she's past her prime. Like Randy, she's really a superhero. And that's what Randy really is, folks.

He's a superhero. There's even a Randy-the Ram action figure. That proves it.

The only place he can live, the only oxygen he can breathe, is not in the real world, it's in the wrestling arena where everything's larger-than-life in a black-and-white morality play. He puts on a costume. He fights evil. He has powers beyond those of mortal human beings. He's a superhero.

Then he has a heart attack.

From here, the expected arc of the story is: You ain't a superhero. Accept your human limitations. He tries. Randy retires from wrestling. He reconciles himself to his bitter daughter. Then they unreconcile. Randy, despite doctor's warnings, goes back in the ring for a 20-year-anniversary rematch with the Ayatollah. It's gonna kill him. He knows it. But he dies with his tights on.

An honest movie. A movie with balls.

I loved Pi. I loved The Fountain.

Darren Aronofsky just keeps getting better and better.

*The movie's drenched in the Guns & Roses-type heavy metal sounds from that period. Personally, I hated that shit, but it works from his POV — a working class dude to whom the 80s was one big party. Randy bitches something to the effect, "that fucker Cobain ruined everything." From his perspective, I guess he did.

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