Sunday, 22 February 2015

Review: The Wrestler

I can't believe I haven't seen…

The Wrestler Poster

The Wrestler (2008)
Cert: 15 / 107 mins / Dir. Darren Aronofsky / Trailer
WoB Rating: 4/7

Oh, come on, I'm a middle-aged man that used to have hair longer than Randy 'The Ram' Robinson's. How am I supposed to concentrate on Marisa Tomei lapdancing when they're playing Firehouse over the top of it? So much of the film's 1980s soundtrack is either from my youth or my recent years playing GTA, that a film about a confused man living in the past seems less like the character study of a nostalgic narcissist and more like a secretly-filmed documentary…

Joking aside, the use of handheld cameras throughout the film does lend The Wrestler the feel of a fly-on-the-wall diary, bringing a sense of intimacy to the point of claustrophobia, particularly in the quieter scenes. It's these moments where Mickey Rourke's performance is at its strongest. The portrait of a faded pro-wrestler working the amateur circuit, The Ram is a man who can't let go of his glory days, not because he believes it to be better as such, but because he pretty much has no present to return to. Outside the ring, his existence is punctuated with links to his former life; the action figure of himself he keeps in his van, his licensed Nintendo NES game he's always got on standby ready to play in his trailer, or the collection of TDK mixtape cassettes next to his bed.

But aside from the character-building, The Wrestler is of course a film about a wrestler, and that's where we parted ways. As someone who fails to grasp any sport at even the most fundamental level, I found it difficult to give a shit about something I have absolutely no frame of reference for. The fact that pro-wrestling*1 is essentially a performance art anyway, only made things worse, not better. The lines between good acting, good wrestling and bad bit-part acting all blurred together a little too easily for me, and rapidly turned into something I just couldn't get involved with. The film is certainly well made, but I'd have been more interested if it had been an actual documentary (although again, with the notorious levels of showmanship involved in the sport, it may as well be).

Even with the scattershot subplots running into Randy's personal life, the pacing is a little too slow and disjointed for my tastes, and feels like a 70 minute film padded out for too long with b-roll footage.

Despite everything that Aronofsky skillfully throws at the viewer, I just couldn't connect with The Wrestler. Maybe I just prefer my fakery to be a little less real?

Have you really never seen this before?
Nope. I was all poised to see it at my local cinema (it actually played there), then didn't quite get round to it for whatever reason.

So are you glad you've finally have?
Well, I'd be hard pushed to say I really 'enjoyed' The Wrestler, but it interested the fuck out of me, on film-making level.

And would you recommend it, now?
Only if you're looking for something a little challenging that's not exactly deep, but definitely has more going on under the surface.

Oh, and is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Didn't hear one. Although it's not that kind of movie, I suppose.

…but what's the Star Wars connection?
Mickey Rourke starred in 2006's Stormbreaker, as did Ewan McGregor from the Star Wars prequel trilogy and Andy Serkis from the Star Wars sequel trilogy (well, The Force Awakens at least).

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 ie the spandex/arena type wrestling as opposed to the olympic type wrestling shown in Foxcatcher. Although to be fair I struggled to give a shit about that as well.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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