The Wrestler: Darren Aronofsky

04Jan09

by The Great White Gypsy

untitled

White people are crazy.

I never really got into wrestling.  I know, it’s real, they are like stuntmen, and people have died in the ring.  But it’s scripted, it’s retardedly violent in a white trash kinda way, and they wear tights.  So when I saw the poster for The Wrestler, I wasn’t really interested.  Then I read that Robert D. Seigel wrote it (his only credit so far is The Onion Movie) and I got less excited.  Then I learned that Darren Aronofsky directed it, and Mickey Rourke was the main star.  So I went right out and watched it.  Ten minutes in, one single thought was creeping around in my head:

White people are crazy.

Watching Rourke jump off the ropes onto a guy’s head, seeing them using ladders, chairs, barbed wire and staple guns on each other (yeah, staple guns…in the face), I felt slightly detached from the story; I couldn’t identify with these kind of people.

Then I saw Mickey Rourke cry, and I was moved.

The premise has been done before in sports films.  Rourke is The Ram, an aging wrestler who at one time was as big in underground circuits as Hulk Hogan.  He now plays smaller venues; high schools, civic centers, YMCA type stuff.  Then he has a heart attack, and the doctor tells him he can never wrestle again.  So he reevaluates his life, tries to reconnect with his estranged daughter (Evan Rachel Wood), and form a meaningful relationship with a stripper (Marisa Tomei).  Sounds like a Ron Howard movie, right?

Wrong.  Darren Aronofsky is a fairly young director.  However, even with only three films under his belt (Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain) he has proved that he can carry a project, and do it well.  Possibly his best trait is he uses the camera like an extension of his mind.

Requiem for a Dream was one of the first films to use a camera strapped to the actor’s waist while they were running.  He complimented that with close-up shots of irises when drugs were being used, and a Danny Boyle-style way of making a cramped apartment seem vast and lonely (which he also used in his fantasy love story, The Fountain). 

In the wrestler, you could tell it was Aronofsky behind the camera.  In the first five minutes Rourke is on screen, even though it is well shot and acted, you don’t see his face.  The camera is always behind him.  This may seem simple, but it was actually profound.  Not only did this provoke a feeling of anticipation watching The Ram walk through hallways before emerging into the main room to the sound of screaming fans, but it made every situation he got into a wrestling match.  This technique was used when he was going into work at a deli, when he was walking up to his daughter’s house for the first time in years, when he was walking into the strip club to see his only “friend”.  It also established the character very well, giving the feeling that he turned his back to most of the world, hiding his face and his fears.

When I first saw the trailer, I assumed (maybe because it’s Mickey Rourke) that the main character would be an asshole.  That he’d be an alcoholic, a drug addict, a slave to the chanting masses.  He’s none of these things.  He’s actually a really cool guy, but he just can’t get his life to work right.  He tries, he really does.  And despite my detachment from his profession, I really felt for the guy. 

But I guess that’s Aronofsky in a nutshell.  He has extreme, unrelatable settings (everyone’s a drug addict, or traveling through time in search of love, or putting a drill to your head), and yet, somehow, the characters are so compelling and real that nothing seems that outrageous.

Perhaps even more impressive is that, at age 52, Mickey Rourke does most of his own stunts, jumping off the ropes, doing crazy acrobatics.  He really was a wrestler.

If there is any decency left in the Academy, this will get nods for best actor, director, picture, and screenplay.  If not, at least Marisa Tomei will inexplicably walk with a Best Actress nomination.

Final Grade: A-



One Response to “The Wrestler: Darren Aronofsky”


  1. 1 The Wrestler: Darren Aronofsky | No Brainer Profits

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