Reviews of The Wrestler
Displaying all 12 reviews
It is a towering creative achievement whereby those who have imagined this story for Randy ‘the Ram’ Robinson follow a script of emotional depth, integrity and fascinating character development. The performances in the movie are first-rate. It is films like these where we can observe a man in his role in society but also what he represents as a performer. The scenes between Randy and his daughter were brilliant.
This film had great potential. But a film should always carry all the way until the end rather than wither as its protagonist withers. The ending felt like a relief. It was almost as if the movie was a rollercoaster of thrilling, raw emotion and by the ending it had lost consciousness or had a heart collapse, essentially. The ending was so soft for a film about a brutal art and its consequences on a man. I felt a little let down by the sentimental ending. Other than that, The Wrestler has a great story throughout most of the film and I was really moved and intrigued by the people I was watching. I felt like I was watching people who I could see every day at the supermarket or in my local area but never know their story.
The Wrestler is a sympathetic portrait, and one that people need to see.
- Currently 4.0/5 Stars.
(Originally posted at www.tkatthemovies.com)
For most of its gripping 110 minutes, Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler successfully challenges the safety of sports-themed redemption tales. Using brisk, jagged editing and handheld cinematography, film tells a bracing and grim story of a man having to choose between physical and emotional punishment. In its second half, the movie surrenders a bit to convention with underdeveloped subplots undermining the movie’s freshness. Still, the film holds up not only as a vehicle for a Mickey Rourke comeback but a tragic reflection on the frailty of the human body.
Full disclosure: I was once obsessed with professional wrestling. I watched WCW programming multiple times a week and even took notes about victors, similar to how I now jot down thoughts when watching movies. With this nostalgia for my middle school days following hardcore bouts and heavyweight champions, The Wrestler had a strong effect on me, particularly in its behind-the-scenes look at how these men talk to each other backstage and plan out fights that will hopefully energize audiences.
In depicting the violence of the ring, this film could have easily slipped into hypocrisy, fetishizing the bloodshed that has damaged our protagonist. Instead, the film is structured in a way that’s honest about the consequences of the blows. With a hardcore bout involving broken glass, staples and barbed wire, Aronofsky at first seems to take the safe route, revealing only the bloody aftermath and a walk back to the locker room. But as flashbacks kick in, the audience sees the carnage that Randy “The Ram” Robinson (Rourke) experiences. While this seems gratuitous at first, the crosscutting between the treatment of Randy’s wounds and the respective acts that sliced him open lends a sense of realism that would have been undercut had we just seen the fight. Dissecting the fakery of professional wrestling does not tame the impact – it somehow intensifies it.
The recognition of the impact on the human body helps The Wrestler stand apart from most “sports movies.” Wrestling is not merely a backdrop; it’s an active antagonist brutalizing the participants, or maybe an addictive drug. The saddest shot is a handheld pan around a room of retired, aging wrestlers signing autographs for fans. As Randy and the audience see the wrinkles in the faces and the artificial limbs, there’s an understanding of the cost. And yet Randy continues to take the punches even past his prime because he needs the money and he doesn’t know how to conduct himself in the world outside of the ropes.
Marisa Tomei’s stripper Cassidy adds an important dimension to the idea of a body paying the bills. As they age, Randy and Cassidy seem to be going out of style. He continues to lose a battle with his heart, and she no longer attracts many customers. Unfortunately, the casting of Tomei here proves unconvincing. She does a great job in the part, lending an intriguing mix of confidence and vulnerability, but to be honest, she has aged tremendously and looks great, in the club and out in the light. Casting such a stunning woman in this role doesn’t quite work.
The film works so well in its first hour, making the on-the-nose devices of the second half such a shame. In particular, Randy’s relationship with his daughter feels transplanted from a lesser movie. Evan Rachel Wood does fine as Stephanie, but she is wasted as a protagonist-developing tool rather than a character herself. An afternoon of hanging out radically reverses the doubts about her father built up over a lifetime, and just as unconvincingly, it all comes crumbling down so fast when he fails to show up for dinner. Though The Wrestler is the stronger movie, the otherwise friendly Warrior deals with familial relationships better – there’s a plausibility in how the relationships between Nick Nolte’s Paddy and his two sons unfold. With Aronofsky’s film, it is perfunctory, all in the service of manipulating Randy’s emotional state.
Some lines of dialogue connect the dots for audiences with no regard for subtlety. When Cassidy mentions Christ during a lap dance, it not only ruins a genuinely fascinating moment – a casual conversation in an unexpected context – but it feels like a broad thematic connection that’s out of place, considering the staggering honesty of the rest of the film. And while it is engaging to see Randy both succeed and struggle in a pay-the-rent job at a deli, the apparent attempt to connect the character’s decaying body and the meat he sells feels cute.
The Wrestler succeeds as a gripping drama, even with its weaknesses, because of the commitment of the filmmaking and the performers. Particularly with the film’s ambiguous ending, this movie overcomes the almost inevitable issue of predictability, given the subject. If this film makes anything clear, it is that all of our bodies have an expiration date, even if for some of us it’s sooner than later. Don’t we always know the ending?
- Currently 4.0/5 Stars.
“O lutador” é um belíssimo filme. Não vou falar das atuações de Mickey Rourke ou de Marisa Tomei, deslumbrante; pois muitos já falaram a respeito. São outros os motivos que me fazem achar este filme melhor a cada vez que penso nele. Mais do que a história clichê emotiva de um lutador decadente, o filme nos mostra, com rara sensibilidade em meio à violência, a dificuldade de lidar com o que há talvez de mais cruel em nossa existência: a passagem do tempo.
O entendimento de como essa questão se mostra no filme começa pelo nome do protagonista, Randy “The Ram” Robinson. “Ram” é substantivo [carneiro], mas também, e principalmente, é verbo [bater, golpear, entre outros significados]. Não temos apenas um apelido, mas uma ação que define quem é o protagonista e como ele se relaciona com o mundo. Randy é este verbo, ele não sabe ser qualquer outra coisa que não aquele que bate de frente com a vida, e esta ação o aprisiona.
Fica claro que Randy não saberia e teme ser algo diferente, viver de outra forma. Este aspecto de aprisionamento e inadequação permeia todas as situações e cenários. Os planos, mesmo os mais fechados, são áridos e vazios. Compartilhamos com o personagem angústia e desolação, e a sensação é perturbadoramente claustrofóbica. Perturbador também é perceber o descompasso entre ele e a stripper Cassidy, a única pessoa que parece significar para Randy uma possibilidade de mudança. Randy conjuga seu verbo, seu único verbo, sempre no pretérito [ele até acredita sinceramente que Guns n’ Roses é uma grande banda, nada mais anos 80], enquanto a personagem de Marisa Tomei está voltada para um futuro, mesmo que idealizado. É um encontro impossível, e a consequência maior é a dor. Randy busca a dor física e a mutilação como quem satisfaz a um vício. Há então o impulso auto-destrutivo e a fuga, afinal a dor física pode ser preferível frente às dores do mundo; mas vejo também uma busca por sentir-se vivo, uma maneira de preencher o vazio de uma vida que não é, já que está circunscrita ao passado.
Fico pensando que o protagonista teve diante de si duas opções: reinventar-se enquanto homem e encarar as dores e angústias da “vida real” [talvez envelhecer seja mesmo um contínuo processo de reinvenção], ou render-se ao “conforto” de uma identidade estática e cristalizada, ainda que isso signifique a mais completa solidão. Randy fez sua escolha e o filme terminou, e não cabe aqui nenhum juízo de valor sobre suas atitudes. Saí do cinema angustiado, pois sei que todos nós, mais cedo ou mais tarde, estaremos diante das mesmas opções; e um pouco assustado, porque sei também que não importa qual seja a nossa escolha, sempre haverá um preço a pagar, sempre haverá uma cota de dor.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
Wrestling is a fantasy sport primarily enjoyed by the working class to release their pent up anger and provide them with a living breathing hero. The Wrestler provides an entertainment by using his body as a target for physical abuse and pain. Mickey Roarke gives the decades best performance as “The Wrestler”. His character has made his profession his life and his body has the scars to prove it. He takes the abuse and pain with no rewards except the approval of his fans and fellow wrestlers. This apparently works for him until a brutal match brings on a heart attack. He is told that he can’t wrestle because his heart can’t take the stress. His struggle to mend his lost relationship with his daughter and his attempt to make a damaged stripper (played magnificently by Marisa Tomei) his port in a storm- is enough to make this mature man cry. These tears and my emotional response was earned as this film grabs you in and doesn’t let you go until the dramatic conclusion that was honest and very human. This is the best film of 2008 and will be remembered when “Slumdog Millionaire” is an afterthought.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
Director Darren Aronofsky’s much-lauded character study is some solid filmmaking, but doesn’t quite live up to the hype it generated. Mickey Rourke deserves every bit of praise he received for his superb, career-defining performance – and the rest of the cast is also very good, the authentic characters and performances manage to smooth out some of the pretty plentiful cliches in the script. Authentically and sensitively crafted, but ultimately underwhelming – a good film, but not really a great one.
- Currently 3.0/5 Stars.
The Wrestler is a powerhouse of a film with a rising structure fire. It takes a firm chokehold on any character study of the last decade. Rourke’s fearlessness, combined with Aronofsky’s brutal honesty, escorts the audience through a combine of pain and glory. The hulking, 16mm steadicam gives years of wear and weight to the viewing experience of a broken man’s scramble for peace. The free-handed, documentarian feel perfectly disguises the sharp craft of the director. The design of Randy The Ram’s world is so nuanced, each item, exterior, and costume indicating the sorrow of fallen glory. Evan Rachel Wood gives a smart performance that could have easily been bratty and Marissa Tomei plays a hardened beauty with vigor and passion, her character cleverly paralleled with Rourke’s throughout the movie. Flawless, powerful, truely sublime. The finest film of ’08.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
Seria extremamente legítimo duvidar de O Lutador. O último parto de Darren Aronofsky havia sido aquela sucessão de equívocos chamada Fonte da Vida e seu novo projeto, sobre um lutador velho que vive das glórias passadas, seria estrelado por Mickey Rourke, um ator velho que caiu no ostracismo depois de ser um dos maiores astros dos anos 80 (e que também andou dando uns sopapos nos ringues). Aronofsky parecia querer fazer uma homenagem a Mickey e filmes-homenagem geralmente são limitados, cansativos e não levam a lugar algum.
Mas O Lutador é completamente diferente do que se poderia imaginar. Ele não está à sombra do histórico ou da figura de Mickey Rourke. Randy “The Ram” e o ator têm pouco a ver. Seu único ponto em comum talvez seja o fato de como ambos são resultados dos desacertos de suas histórias. A certeza desta desassociação enobrece o filme, que, apesar de tudo, certamente mora num tempo distante. Sua trilha soft metal traduz o personagem principal, um herói de uma outra época, preso a um passado não exatamente de tantas glórias, mas de promessas e deslumbramentos. Um homem que resolve deixar de ser refém de seu corpo.
Não há uma só palavra no filme sobre a aparência de Randy. Mas é justamente este visual, o de um homem que abriu mão de todo o resto para investir na expansão de sua massa muscular, que motiva e justifica O Lutador. O filme só existe porque seu corpo decadente é reflexo de suas escolhas. E o personagem sabe muito bem disso. Randy é um homem consciente da exaustão de seu corpo, de sua decadência como atleta, que decide tentar preservar o que resta de sua carcaça. Sua vida, ou o que ele sempre entendeu como sua vida, já deu o que tinha que dar, rendeu o que rendeu, chegou ao limite. O que um homem faz quando tudo o que lhe importa virou passado?
“The Ram”, que apesar dos músculos sempre foi um homem doce, resolve partir em busca de conforto. Seja nos braços de Cassidy, a dançarina vivida por Marisa Tomei, deslumbrante, em quem enxerga um possível amor e um pilar de reconstrução; seja na tentativa de reaproximação da filha, para quem sua figura é apenas um fantasma incômodo; seja no esforço para arrumar outro emprego, seguir uma nova vida, sobreviver. Este parágrafo possivelmente parece condenar o filme a uma história de redenção – e náo seria errado classificá-la assim porque, pondos os pingos nos is, o que Randy quer é ter a chance de poder recomeçar. Mas o roteiro nunca trata as coisas de forma tão fácil.
A relação entre “The Ram” e Cassidy é bastante exemplar. A dançarina é tão dependente de seu corpo quanto o lutador, mas os dois vivem momentos diferentes. Se Cassidy, que ainda tem pleno domínio sobre seu corpo, resiste a interferências e mudanças em sua vida, Randy procura uma transformação para enfrentar a falência de sua forma. Mas o roteirista Robert D. Siegel nos incita a pensar: essa busca do protagonista é genuína ou é um simples reflexo de seu estado de consciência de suas limitações? É possível negar nossa história? Nossa história não somos nós? Desse terreno de incertezas, desses personagens complexos em sua simplicidade se nutre um dos melhores filmes do ano.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
Not a perfect film, but still the best movie of the year in my opinion. Aronofsky completely moved away from his trademark stylistic elements and put together a picture which was entirely story and character driven (somewhat comparable to the approach taken by minimalist masters such as Robert Bresson and John Cassavetes.) Anyone with a brain can comprehend why Rourke losing to Sean Penn was the biggest Oscar snub since Peter Sellers’ loss to Rex Harrison in 1964. While Penn played a difficult role which involved a fair amount of attention to detail, it was far too obvious a feat to deserve an Oscar. What Rourke did with his character is something I will never forget. He brought overwhelming sensitivity and vulnerability to a figure who is associated with neither of those traits. As for Evan Rachel Wood’s performance, people are too quick to bash it. Keep in mind that when dealing with a topic as delicate as a daughter dealing with never knowing the love of a father, it’s not so easy to determine what seems real and what doesn’t until you’ve experienced it yourself. With that being said, I watched the film with a friend of mine who currently is part of a broken relationship with a father that had once left her, and she in no way thought Evan Rachel Wood’s acting was phony. I’ve seen enough movies to know what’s worth crying about, and am nearly never phased by dramatic and sentimental moments. I saw this with my father and we both cried numerous times throughout it. Overall, the movie makes an interesting comment about staying true to yourself and what you have that makes you happy. It acknowledges how imperfect life is, and how important it is to do everything that you can to distract yourself from these things. It acknowledges how important it is to recognize that though you’ll never be everything you wanted, you’ll always mean something special to someone. I found the ending predictable, but provocative nonetheless. Existentialism and gritty white trash wrestling go well together – 4 stars.
- Currently 4.0/5 Stars.
I was never a fan of Aronosky’s films but this movie surprised me. There is a lot of genuine moments in here… but then again, they’re also a lot of scenes in the movie that seemed forced and pushed a little too far. His relationship with his daughter is one that aggravated the shit out of me. The movie has little subtle moments in it that are perfect and then his shit stain of a daughter comes around and ruins it with unorganic rage against her father. I understand that she is upset (and has every right to be)… but god damn, for the sake of the movie, take it down a notch. It’s like if someone would of place a soap opera actress in a Cassavete film.
- Currently 3.0/5 Stars.
one of my favourite films ever, The Wrestler is near perfect. It is the best look at the tragic state of an individual I have seen on screen (followed closely by Aronofsky’s Requiem For A Dream). I re-watched it tonight with my brother and couldn’t help but point out all the things that make the movie so perfect. There are whole scenes that are just immaculate in terms of dialogue, character development et al. I can’t stress enough how magnificent this film is. If you have not seen it, do it now.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
Shot like an observational documentary, The Wrestler truly feels like a man who idolized wrestlers as a kid getting a deep, intimate behind the scenes with one of his idols. Mickey Rourke and Marissa Tomei both put on fantastic performances that are emotionally captivating through subtlety.
The only thing that really brings things down is the plotline about Randy and his daughter. Spanning only a few scenes, the entire sub-story feels a bit crunched in. Plus, Evan Rachel Wood’s performance comes off as too over the top amongst the film’s tone. More emotional force wasn’t needed; There’s more than enough in the film beyond that plotline.
- Currently 4.0/5 Stars.
It’s a fascinating thought I had going into Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler, screened at the Toronto International Film Festival. I began to worry that a straightforward tale may not be playing to the director’s strengths. The reason being that his masterpiece The Fountain was still in my head and since he didn’t have writing credit here, my trepidation increased. It wasn’t until the end credits that I recalled Requiem For a Dream being an adaptation and his debut π being pretty grounded in reality despite its surrealistic tendencies. So in actuality, the guy had only made one non-straightforward film, and all to immense success, at least in my eyes. Whether his planned Robocop retooling can be a victory, (I think his visual style should do it justice), remains to be seen, but as of now, the guy is four for four. Not only does Mickey Rourke own the screen every second of the movie, but Aronofsky lends just the right amount of his stamp on the proceedings, creating a definite top ten inclusion for my end of year list and, by far, the best film I had seen at the festival.
The story deals with an aging professional wrestler, a man that was a champion and idol in his heyday. Beaten and battered, Randy “The Ram” Robinson finds himself doing small venues on the weekends, trying to relive past glory and entertain the fans still out there, while working at a grocery store during the week. Not having stopped with the working out, he also continues to take any drugs necessary to keep his physique as well as numb the pain of what ails him. Money is tight, the camps’ landlord locks him out of his trailer; family is non-existent, his daughter wants nothing to do with him; and the only real human interaction he has is from a stripper he pays more for an ear to talk than for the lapdances. The Ram remembers the past—an old action figure of himself stands on his van’s dash—and does his best to keep it in the front of his mind. A wonderful example comes when he yells out his trailer to a neighborhood kid; asking if wants to play Nintendo. The two play a boxing game, Robinson of course as himself, while the boy talks about the new Call of Duty game coming out on Playstations, et al. This gap in culture and reality never hits him hard, though, as he loves the decade that built him too much.
The Ram and Cassidy, (Marisa Tomei’s stripper, showing off her sexy body once more this year—has nudity become a prerequisite for casting her now?), are definitely kindred spirits, coming out of that decade. Both are doing what they need to survive, she dancing to support her son and he working at a shopping mart to stay afloat enough to waste weekends on the local wrestling circuit, hanging with the guys and doing what he loves. Only these two would get overly excited when the 80s tunes start blaring out a bar’s speakers, recalling a time when life must have been so much easier.
It is a heart attack that finally wakes Rourke’s character from his long slumber of indifference and living without consequence. With a masterstroke of subtlety, Aronofsky begins to show his hand at this point. We begin to look around the locales The Ram visits. An autograph session is one example, rather than like the beginning, watching two enthusiastic fans get his signature and talk to each other about how nice a guy he is, we now watch a pan across the room at those selling their John Hancocks. Some of the wrestlers are older than he, and others not, however, they all have one thing in common—a slow dismantling of their bodies from the hard, fast lifestyle they lived. We see canes, wheelchairs, sorrow, and pain etched in every face. The Ram finally realizes the risk he takes each time he steps in that ring and decides to retool his life for the future by attempting to rekindle a relationship with his daughter, a nice performance from Evan Rachel Wood; maybe start one with Cassidy, for real, not at the club; and take an invested interest at making a career out of the grocery store gig.
Robinson is willing to leave it all behind. The transition culminates into a scene with the camera following closely behind him as he walks through the backroom before entering the deli counter. With music playing and cheering slowly reaching a crescendo, the comparison to his entrance at a wrestling match is both fitting and ironic. This then leads to a nice scene as he begins to get comfortable behind the counter, riffing with the customers and even pretending to quarterback a container of salad to a shopper. It’s a fun moment and helps establish a feeling that it could all be working out for him.
The story is not that simple, though. What really hit home for me was the absolute frankness and unsentimental tone The Wrestler truly portrays. A great line comes with Rourke in the ring, about to fight, despite someone telling him he doesn’t have to get hurt; he can stop. The Ram just looks back and says, “I only get hurt out there,” pointing to the outside world. That ring is his safe haven, the one place he is loved unconditionally by fans and peers alike, the ropes serving as walls against the prejudices, looks, and pain awaiting him out in the real world. He is a wrestler to the bone, expressed earlier with a viciously orchestrated battle involving tables, staple guns, and barbed wire. The entire film is really just a slice of life following The Ram around as he figures out the path that works for him. Sometimes the costume is the real person—just ask Superman—and to go back to being Robin Randinski becomes too much to handle.
It’s a performance worthy of award and a tale succeeding on all counts. Aronofsky is not shy to work some magic, nor afraid to let the story take control when necessary. All the glamour and celebrity is there along with the flip side of the coin when gravity kicks in. An amazing experience to be sure, you won’t want to get up at its conclusion, (the wonderful new Bruce Springsteen song definitely helps this fact), instead staying to contemplate what has happened and what might happen, as the filmmakers throw a question mark at you. Whether Randy “The Ram” Robinson is content, we will never know, but one thing we do is that he lived without regret. It may not have all turned out the way he wanted, but in the end he a man that will not, that cannot, change. And he doesn’t have to.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.