Friday, January 30, 2009

A Broken Heart, A Broken Tale

If you’ve ever seen a one trick pony out in the field, alive and free
If you’ve ever seen a one trick pony, then you’ve seen me

The Wrestler - Darren Aronofsky starring Mickey Rourke

Loss comes as the greatest of all life’s challenges. Sometimes what it lost is never found again. In the worst of cases life, as it once was, is never matched. When that occurs, a loss so severe, those that have suffered so deeply and so darkly, those people would give anything to feel again. To feel a tease of what life used to feel like. They would give everything to be alive again. It’s a terrible irony. To give one’s life in order to have lived once more.

There is even a darker place than this.

A place where all is lost and all is yearned for to return, however, it is uncertain what was ever there to begin.
The Wrestler is a tour de force of grit, despair, angst and grievance. All of this comes through the brilliance of Mickey Rourke’s portrayal of Randy “The Ram” Robinson. A performance worthy of the praise and should garner a title belt of its own right.
Alas, there is something missing here.

As the story unravels itself as a tale of loss from a low point to an even lower point repeating until the lowest is ultimatum. It is as desperate as films come. This darkness does not, however, make it a brilliant work.

This film wants you to believe you see an evolution of a man as he comes to terms with himself and his reality. The Ram struggles with his own identity, both in name (Robin) and history. He attempts to patch together a semblance of who he is amongst the tatters of a life his uncertain he has wasted or not. There are real moments as Randy reaches out one last time for the acceptance and love of his daughter. There is reality in Randy’s disillusion with holding a job in a deli after having once been great. There is reality in a man coming to terms with a body that won’t support his heart, spiritually and substantively. We even see a reality in an attempted relationship, but as with every other reality the film touches, it dissolves one heartbreaking failure after the next. This failure of the main character to ever absolve anything in his life prevents the film from ever completing its intent.

The Wrestler does a superb job demonstrating the world of amateur, semipro and professional wrestling, but it does so at the cost of allowing the film to grab hold and connect with the viewer as it should. Every opportunity that Randy has to right a wrong is tossed away, often in the most overtly demonstrative and destructive of ways.

He fails to reconnect with his daughter because he does coke and has sex with a woman twisted on fireman and ferrets. The “over the top” here is as shallow and as seedy as the sport of professional wrestling itself. It plays false to me. It’s a shame; this movie could have been everything it promised if it had simply taken itself a little more seriously. The climax of this comes about midpoint of the film when The Ram is subjected to one of the most gruesome scenes of brutality I’ve ever seen outside a horror films. Why? Why the flashbacks detailing each and every injury? Why the need to gore up a film that should be going for the heart and the mind, not appealing the jerk off meathead that watches wrestling to begin with. The time invested in showing us staples removed from flesh should have been spent in sincere dialogue between Rourke and Tomei.

Maybe I’m getting weak, I cannot say for certain. I expected more and left unfulfilled.
What should have been the turning sequence of the film, as Randy delivers his farewell speech to the legion of fans ends up falling to the mat with an elbow to the back and 5 min of mindless fumbling around. Sure it would have been cliché, but someone should have stopped the match, there should have been something to live for, something to fight for. Instead, we see the hero banish himself to the depths of darkness by giving his life to live once more.

I see the depth in his final act; I just wish I would have seen him reach this point more through despair and failure of human loss than the physicality of broken glass and folding chairs.
Some may argue that the gruesome way the story is conveyed is true to the content of the story, the world of wrestling is dark and brutal…they also tried to say that Showgirls was a brilliant story because it was as pathetic as Vegas itself, no one bought that.

The Wrestler is a quality film, it could have been great, epic even. It just didn’t know how to be true to its heart.


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