The Wrestler

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There are certain film performances where the actor and the role blend so perfectly that you simply cannot imagine anyone else in the role. Mickey Rourke’s devastating, brilliant performance as Randy the Ram, an over-the-hill, has-been pro wrestler is such a role. Mark my words, it will win him the Oscar (and if it doesn’t, the Oscars are now officially meaningless. Which I kind of figured by now, anyway).

Surely, Randy the Ram’s story has parallels with Rourke’s own. Both were superstars in the eighties, both lost their wealth and fame, both were given hard blows by life and both are aching, striving, yearning for a comeback. In fact, Rourke has stated that the film is so close to his own experience that he has yet to watch the entire film; it’s too real.

I have always found Rourke to be an astonishingly talented actor. As a younger actor in his heyday, he reminded me of the dark, moody method style of Brando or Clift. As he got older, the roles got wackier, looser, less predictable. Yes, the work also got “worse,” I guess, but part of Rourke’s appeal was always his unpredictability. Then came Sin City, which was supposed to be his comeback role, but it didn’t work out that way (which is a shame, because it’s a spellbinding performance).

The Wrestler is a spectacular film, rich, full of life. It’s got glimmers of hope and redemption, but it’s also realistic and grim. Darren Aronofsky, the gifted director, has crafted a masterpiece of sorts. I couldn’t look away from the screen for the film’s duration.

Of course, the reason most people will see the film is the on-screen resurrection of Rourke’s career, but attention must also be paid to the terrific script by Robert D. Siegel, the cinematography by Maryse Alberti and the supporting performances by Marisa Tomei as Cassidy, the stripper who has Randy’s heart, and Evan Rachel Wood, as Randy’s estranged daughter.

It’s a film full of humor, blood, tears and, at the center of it all, a good man, who is flawed and tired, but still is out there, trying. One of the best films of 2008.

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