The Wrestler

Darren Aronofsky's latest existential adventure is about the troubles faced by a retired wrestler. Lonely and unable to achieve anything outside of the ring, wrestling is the only world he understands. In typical Aronofsky style we watch him as he tries to redeem himself, to escape the lot that society has given him, but how far he can succeed remains to be seen.

There could not have been a better man for the role than Mickey Rourke, as has been testified by the recent Golden Globe and the calls for the Oscars to follow suit. A man with a troubled life, Rourke abandoned Hollywood to become a fighter. He has had problems with authority, been deemed violent and even impossible to work with, and he knows better than anyone working in Hollywood today what it means to be at the bottom. This comes through beautifully in his performance. It's not just the scenes of isolation, confusion and despair that he excels in either. He manages to capture to essence of this man's identification with the sport, it's camaraderie and its existence a way of life. Even, possibly especially, the scenes with his daughter are outstanding. The genuine desire to come good on his past failings are palpable, making for poignant and at times painful viewing.

There are points at which the arc of the story seems a little predictable, particularly if you know Requiem for a Dream very well, but these moments are promptly overshadowed by moments of such emotional intensity that it is difficult to be critical. The raw intensity of the scenarios Aronofsky carves from his actors and their surroundings is really something special. So my verdict, as you may have guessed, is that if you can take this emotional pounding it will bring rich rewards.

The Wrestler at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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