Sunday, October 26, 2008

London Film Festival Day 12 - THE WRESTLER (Surprise film)

THE WRESTLER is one of those films that makes you re-assess your preconceptions about a certain actor or director. After the bloated disaster of THE FOUNTAIN I was wondering if Darren Aronofsky would ever produce anything as visceral and devestating as REQUIEM FOR A DREAM. And as for Mickey Rourke - well his career was a joke, wasn't it? And yet here we are with THE WRESTLER - a movie that eschews all the technical tricks and pretentious philosophical musings of Aronofsky's earlier work to give as a restrained, emotionally rich character study. And here we have a central performance from Rourke that's just astounding and definitely Oscar-worthy, channelling all his own experience of a fall from fame into a nuanced and endearing performance. Indeed, THE WRESTLER is up there with IL DIVO and HUNGER as the best movie of the festival so far.

It's a simple story, well told. THE WRESTLER opens with a wry sub-title "twenty years later". Rourke plays a wrestler called "The Ram" who was famous in the 80s but now ekes out a living playing local exhibition matches for cash-in-hand. He lives in a trailor - his daughter doesn't want to know him - his only emotional engagement is with a stripper - his body is a beaten-up mess. But despite all this, The Ram remains a surprisingly upbeat, stand-up guy. He's a pleasure to spend time with. He throws himself into life - even a shitty job at a supermarket deli counter - with gusto. And thanks to a brilliant performance from Rourke, we really want him to turn around his relationship with his daughter and to have a proper relationship with the stripper.

The tragedy is that The Ram is now so bent out of shape that to fight will kill him. But what else can he do? In real life, he's called "Robin", he works a crap job, and he has to struggle for respect. In the ring, to the fans, he's a god. This is the secret of his relationship with the stripper. In the club, she's Cassidy. But outside of the club, she's Pam - a hard-working mum with a kid. For a moment, it looks like they'll be able to help each other, but in the final analysis, the wrestler can't switch his identity so late in life. Really, this movie has the perfect title - it's how The Ram identifies himself and who are we to judge him for sticking to that?

THE WRESTLER played Venice, where it won The Golden Lion, Toronto and London 2008. It opens in the US on December 31st, in Australia on January 15th and in Germany on February 26th.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Bina,

    A little hint, the actor's name is ROURKE, not Rooney.

    (Does someone actually pay you to review movies???)