FrontBurner Film Review: The Wrestler

About a month ago, super helpful and tirelessly working D intern Cole Hill scored an interview with film director Darren Aronofsky and saw a screener of his latest work, The Wrestler. After the jump, Hill’s recap and review of the movie, along with some insight from its director. Check it out.

“The Sacrificial Ram”
By Cole Hill

A bloodthirsty beast hides inside all of us. Romantics call it passion, an unyielding primal punch, the catalyst for creation worth following over any cliff. No one understands this better than director Darren Aronofsky.

“For me it’s all about the process [of filmmaking],” asserts Aronofsky, “I enjoy every step.” Few would expect such creative exuberance from a seasoned director, let alone anyone who’s mired in the movie industry for more than a handful of years. And while cynics found it easy to dismiss his past work (see: “The Fountain”) as little more than overwrought film school assignments, it will prove a heavy challenge for anyone to do the same after seeing his new film, “The Wrestler.”

Shot against the bleak backdrop of Jersey’s winter skies, Aronofsky’s latest venture explores the dwindling life of fictional pro-wrestler Randy “The Ram” Robinson (Mickey Rourke) as he attempts a comeback. Once a name that could sell out Madison Square Garden, 20 years later Ram is a battered has-been barely able to fill the local VFW. Having abandoned his daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) and family for pay-per-view matches and fans long ago, wrestling is all that matters. An addict in the truest sense, Ram cannot deny himself his only real love: the ring.

But amongst this mess, hope shimmers faintly beneath the neon slime of a strip club. Aging exotic dancer Cassidy (Marisa Tomei), an unlikely kindred spirit, is Ram’s last refuge outside the roar of the crowd. Splitting time between confessional lap dances with Ram (one of her only customers) and raising her son, Cassidy shares the wrestler’s desperate yearning for something tangible beyond the spotlight. As Cassidy aids Ram in a last-ditch attempt to repair the relationship with his daughter, the two begin to question if what they’ve really needed is each other.

Adapted from a unique and witty script by Robert Siegel, this marks the first time Aronofsky has relinquished writing duties on a film. As for any of the skepticism that might draw, when speaking with Aronofsky it isn’t difficult to comprehend his mastery over the world in the “The Wrestler.”

“I think that most people think it’s a joke, so they write it off. But the reality is if you’re a 250-pound man jumping off the top rope… you’re going to feel it in the morning.”

Of course, the director’s vision isn’t hurt by the fact that the film’s narrative eerily mirrors that of Rourke’s career. It’s difficult to imagine any other actor fitting into Ram’s skin with such grace and subtlety as Rourke when he confesses to his daughter, “I’m a broken down piece of meat. I deserve to be alone. I just don’t want you to hate me.”

Filmed entirely with a handheld camera, “The Wrestler” bathes its shots in the depleted grit and grain of a true documentary.  Lending much more than just a “realistic touch” to the final product, Aronofsky’s style bleeds authenticity. What’s more, no scene is wasted. By embracing point-of-view perspective, and often filming from behind in lingering long shots, even seemingly arbitrary moments like Ram working the day shift at the deli counter to support his wrestling are treated with the rare sincerity of a parent.

Much more than just another “sports movie,” Aronofsky’s fourth film safely knights him as one of the most promising directors in America today. Whether exploring themes of loneliness, aging, addiction, or in this case all of the above, he never ceases in pushing his characters to their logical limits. Ram doesn’t just throw away his life for glory because he’s an addict, a brute or he’s selfish, but because he can’t escape who he is. Such true passion leaves no doubt. “The Wrestler” is a knockout.

###

“The Wrestler” directed by Darren Aronofsky, written by Robert Siegel, starring Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood, Fox Searchlight Pictures, running time 105 minutes

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Comments

13 responses to “FrontBurner Film Review: The Wrestler

  1. Josh Pearson says:

    Nice work, Cole. Very well written.

  2. Zac Crain says:

    Agreed. Definitely want to see this.

  3. Steve says:

    I cannot freakin’ wait to the see this movie. Going on Saturday with a couple other rabid, ol’ school (WCCW) wrestling fans.

    Also, excellent review by Cole. Get this dude in the print edition.

  4. OneArtDirector says:

    Great writing.

    I am especially fond of this line: “…hope shimmers faintly beneath the neon slime of a strip club.”

    Cole has a bright future ahead of him.

  5. Adamundo says:

    Where has Cole been? Watch out FoF!

  6. Sean says:

    WOW [verb] ARONOFSKY’S [noun] MOAR PLZ!

    j/k

    [edited by ZC]

  7. jon-erik hernandez says:

    This review was incredibly well-written! Where has Mr. Hill been all me life??

    P.S.-What are you trying to say, Sean? A shot…and a miss…

  8. Adamundo says:

    Really, Sean. Thanks Zac.

  9. The Lone Douchebag says:

    Cole:

    Feel good about the compliments, but don’t listen to them. They will ruin your writing. In truth, your review is a decent start to what could eventually be a very good piece of work.

    Take it to Tim or Eric for some hard-nosed editing. It’s a bit overwritten. They will yank out stuff like “unique” (describing the script) and the lazy segues (“What’s more”).

    Listen to them. They’re good. Even more useful, re-read your piece from the perspective of a really critical douchebag. You’ll quickly find easily fixable faults.

  10. The Lone Douchebag says:

    The starred-out word starts with a “d” and rhymes with “mooshbag.”

  11. Obama's seat says:

    Wassup with Mickey’s face these past couple of years? Looks like botched botox, lots of it.

  12. Bus Reilly says:

    I have a question about today’s rasslin:

    Where are all the fireballs of yore?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8GT6WauxLQ

    Keep your eyes open at the 4:30 mark.

  13. Emily Storer says:

    This was a fantastic review Cole! So proud of you and your many accomplishments. Keep it up. Your fans crave more writing!