Passion, Pain and Loneliness – that’s the order that a man is driven when dedicating a life to an Endeavour. A passion grips you when you are young, when you are able and when you can conquer the world. Pain hits you when you realize it’s all but a gift that is cruelly snatched away from you time and again when the body & mind start slipping. And loneliness hits you when you are left with bitterness about your life’s work… when the best that you have done is all but a piece of paper or a sporadic haze of recognition on someone’s face. It’s sad, but it’s the truth.
The Wrestler is a movie, true to its hype, comes along once in a while. It’s a movie that has a heart and a soul that shadows a pro-chap wrestler who is trying to regain his life by getting into the ring to do what he is born for – wrestle. Hell-O-Yeah, the body slams and the make believe top rope jumps, they are all there. What is also there in the film is what it takes to do those stunts. What is there is what really happens in the back-room of wrestling arenas. What is there is the pain, the agony that takes to perform what is commonly dismissed as a manufactured sport. What you see in the movie are the humans behind the devils in the spotlight.
Almost 3 yrs since The Fountain which for some was a let down, Darren comes back strong with this one. Some will walk out of this film touched by Mickey Rouke’s performance and for those who know him; you will be TOUCHED by the way he probably portrayed his own self on the screen. Randy “The RAM” Robinson was once a great wrestler, heck, he still is. Only difference is there is a life that he leads too and that ain’t all the velvety.
Mickey Rourke’s acting is the one thing that for once surpasses even Aronofsky’s’ vision. It’s his film, it’s his body, and it’s his pain that carries the film to connecting with viewers at a very personal level. What Mickey has done to himself all through the film is nothing short of absolute brutality and submission to the character of a wrestler and for that, he is my choice for this years top honors. True, it may not be his true acting poweress that carries the film, but what he has achieved by putting the character first is nothing short of brilliant.
If the movie’s half job was achieved by Mickey, the other half was done by Darren’s amazing sense of locations and setting. It’s New Jersey, the hard New Jersey. Run down towns, cheap strip bars, low-level wrestling pits, community deli’s. A setting that fits the kind of profession that is chose by men living in such hard-places. I lived in a town like that once – gangs, discount stores and gambling dens – retrospectively, I began to think how I survived then. It’s tough in those places and movies in such setting’s really hit you – hit you hard.
Technically speaking, the film hides the effort in that department very effectively. I think I did not see even one stead shot and most of the fights had close-up’s that are technically so difficult to shoot. Clint Mansell does not disappoint especially during the Mickey’s constant battle to cheer himself up during tough times. There is this one scene where Mickey and Marisa Tomasi (Mickey’s stripper confidante) talk about golden 80’s and yucky 90’s. The close-up’s make all the difference.
All in all, The Wrestler is a movie that will over time attain the cult status like most fighter movies. But it’s a relief to see Aronofsky coming out of his comfort zone and making the most brutally honest film of the year; a year that had an overdose of extremely hyper-imaginative films. This will be loved over time till it attains its well deserved cult status. Hopefully it will be sooner. But a watch if you want to see the real and the fake side of rings in which battles however fake, still break the minds and the bodies of those who choose to duel and test their boundaries of their Passion, Pain and Loneliness.