movie review: the wrestler

Last summer I re-watched Requiem for a Dream, having seen it once about eight years prior.  I found it an able and engrossing film both times; however, my response to it changed drastically between viewings.  In my teens the infamous climax with its swelling strings, amputated limb, and double-ended dildo made me feel sad and uncomfortable.  In my twenties, it made me laugh out loud.  Aronofsky is a divisive director–I’ve found myself defending Pi and even The Fountain because yeah, they’re ridiculous, but they’re passionately ridiculous.  You can either embrace that spirit or spit at it, and I tend to embrace it.  The same is true of Requiem, although I simply have no patience for melodramatic fluff that tries to force me to feel the dirty shame of stupid people’s stupid choices.  I just don’t care about that shit.

So it is despite the aforementioned that I fully endorse The Wrestler as a great movie, though it’s not without its trite moments, nor without a tendency to overstate the obvious (as well as to include too many naked scenes of the admittedly stupendously built Marisa Tomei)….even with those flaws it’s really, really good and engaging, and it’s got genuine heart to it.  Pro wrestling is a fascinating spectacle; it combines the campy fun of drag with the exhilaration of choreographed violence.  Even viewers who don’t share my fond memories of watching Wrestlemania on pay-per-view would surely be intrigued by the depictions of what goes on backstage before and after a match.

Many reviews have mentioned the national tragedy of Mickey Rourke’s epic descent from this to this, but which Rourke created more sympathetic, realistic, relatable characters?  We would be remiss to mourn the loss of the young, lovely Rourke when we could instead be celebrating the heydey of the old, busted Rourke, who is still lovely in his own way.  It’s hard to imagine another actor hitting such a perfect tone or so deftly portraying a character who would be pathetic if he weren’t so vibrant.  Despite an ambiguously sad ending, I left the theater feeling uplifted and hopeful, which may or may not be what Aronofsky intended, but it was very welcome anyway.

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