Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Wrestler

After watching Darren Aronofsky float away into the void with The Fountain’s mysticism, it’s nice to see him grounded in the grimy, mundane world of The Wrestler. The closest Aronofsky gets to mysticism here is when he compares his wrestler to Christ, but the plus-side of this analogy is that you also get to see how Jesus would handle the Saturday afternoon rush from behind the counter at the local deli (when the going gets tough, Jesus always opts for the martyr cop-out). In this story of washed-up wrestler Randy the Ram coming to terms with his dead-end life, there’s always a bit of quotidian detail to keep things on the level, and the sight of him steadily grinding down his body in pursuit of stage(d) glory is undeniably affecting.

A pity then that the film’s structure is too rickety to fully support the tragic proportions of the story. In particular, a subplot with Randy’s estranged daughter, while perhaps dramatically useful, remains at best sketched out and awkwardly integrated into the film (Stripper: “Didn’t you mention you had an estranged daughter once while I was giving you a lapdance?”). Rourke is of course worthy of the part and throws his weight behind each punch, but all of this hyperbolic praise of his “comeback” threatens to blot out Randy’s self-immolation with Rourke’s self-redemption—a dubious tendency, and one that sort of misses the point of the film. Rumour has it Rourke will cap off his comeback by wrestling Chris Jericho at Wrestlemania, which suggests that like everyone else he has conflated his own life with Randy’s. Was he too busy bulking up for the part to read how the story ends?

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