movie review: the wrestler


My friends and I were sitting around last night with a fistfull of screeners (when you hang out with Hollywood types, chances are someone is going to have Oscar screeners) and we were trying to decide what to watch.  Everything was either too long or we heard sucked, but then we came across  The Wrestler.  It wasn’t a three-hour plus epic and we all have heard the buzz about Mickey Rourke deserving an Oscar for his performance, but we feared the film itself was going to be little more than a paint-by-numbers Hollywood tearjerker.  Still, it won the vote and we popped it on.

Wow.  We were wrong.  A little less than two hours later, we picked our jaws up off the floor:  The Wrestler may be the best movie we’ve seen all year (yes, and that includes Dark Knight – even though all of us are nerds).   Admittedly, if you X-ray the film, it does follow a fairly standard structure and doesn’t offer a ton of surprises – but the same is true of Titanic.   The Wrestler sucks you into its raw, gritty reality and Rourke absolutely does make you believe he is the lead character; the performance is outstanding and all of us agreed that we could have easily kept watching for another two hours.

Director Darren Aronofsky’s deceptively transparent, nearly-documentary style helps make the world of Randy “The Ram” Robinson seem very real; this, combined with all of the film’s understated performances, creates a believable reality populated by characters that are easy to care for.  

Oddly enough, I think Galactica fans are especially likely to enjoy it – the film’s gritty, realistic tone, sense of drama and cinematography are very reminiscent of the new BSG so, even if you have no interest in a movie about wrestling (I know I sure didn’t), this movie will probably work for you. 

And that’s really all I need to say, other than you MUST see this film when it opens on December 17th.



10 Responses to “movie review: the wrestler”

  1. December 15, 2008 at 3:35 am

    Judging by the trailer it looks like a remake of Rocky…

    I hope I’m wrong.

  2. 2 Izmunuti
    December 16, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    I was going to pass on this film because of the wrestling theme, but given your review, I will go hoping to see a fine drama. Thanks for the head’s up!

    And glad to see you’re back and feeling better, Mojo!!! That transfusion of Cylon blood apparently did the trick.

  3. 3 darthmojo
    December 17, 2008 at 1:51 am

    Not a remake of “Rocky” by any stretch of the imagination.

    In an odd way, this movie is very similar to “Cloverfield.” When you get right down to it, “Cloverfield” was nothing more than a Godzilla movie, but the style and approach was so different it breathed new life into the genre.

    The basic story of “The Wrestler” is nothing we haven’t seen before, but the style and approach and sheer, anti-Hollywood realism of the film makes it seem very, very fresh and unique.

    There is also something about the tone of this movie that reminds me of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” and those in attendance over the weekend agreed. So, if you liked that film, there is an even greater chance you’ll find “The Wrestler” appealing.

  4. 4 The Lobby Lurker
    December 17, 2008 at 7:37 pm

    Having seen a rough cut of the film, I have to agree that it is more than worth seeing. Darren Aronofsky is a brilliant and underutilized director, and “Pi” is still one of my favorite films. He does an amazing job of crating real, believable characters and situations, and then gets you to care, sometimes even relate to them and what is happening onscreen. That is a rare skill in today’s Hollywood of saggy, effects-laden attempts at “blockbusters”.

  5. December 19, 2008 at 3:11 am

    Darren Aronofsky has caught my eye since he did Pi as his first film. Ever since then, he’s raised the bar as a filmmaker. I think “The Fountain” was highly underrated. If you read the graphic novel, you can get a sense for the scale he was reaching for. But from all the buzz I’ve heard, he’s found his epic in the performance of Mickey Rourke. Araonofsky is the Lars Von Trier of this continent and he deserves to be recognized.

  6. 6 Grand Moff Melch
    December 19, 2008 at 3:31 am

    Erm, let’s not forget that there was a screenwriter, Robert D. Siegel, who actually created those “real, believable characters and situations.” Filmmaking is a collaborative effort, and it always begins with filling 100+ blank pages. Anyone who dismisses that contribution has never done it before…

  7. December 19, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    It’s a really good movie. Not my personal best of the year–nothing comes close to LET THE RIGHT ONE IN for me–but it’s very, very good. I don’t even want to allude to my favorite things in it, they should just be experienced. And to say that Mickey Rourke is beyond amazing doesn’t do his performance justice. Maybe I have a few small issues, but so what. And it resembles Rocky about as much as it resembles Battlestar Galactica. The original.

  8. 8 darthmojo
    December 22, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    Grand Moff: I’m the first to remind people about writers, although I believe “The Wrestler” owes more to its director and star than to the scribe. Now, before you throw a typewriter at me, let’s really consider the story of this movie – it really is nothing new. If you sit back and examine the character arcs and plot, it’s very derivative.

    I could be wrong, but I would guess the script for “The Wrestler” would read as a mediocre film; but the rawness of the docu-drama style and the subtle intensity of Rourke’s performance really raised the bar. In the hands of another director, this film could easily have been a two-star mellowdrama. And how would we have felt about it if its intended star, Nicholas Cage, had not dropped out? I wager it would have been a very different experience.

    So while I agree that without the writer, clearly there is nothing, I agree more with your comment that movies are a collaborative artform; “The Wrestler” is a textbook example of how collaboration can create a work that is greater than the sum of its parts.

  9. 9 Tippytink
    December 22, 2008 at 8:01 pm

    I am a female nerd myself who would never think to enjoy a film about wrestling. This film is great and the more you think about it afterwards the more you appreciate all aspects, including the acting, directing, cinematography, and editing. Each were well thought out for the emotions needed for the film. Mojo, I agree with you!

  10. 10 The Lobby Lurker
    December 23, 2008 at 11:18 pm

    Well put, Tippy. I’m no wrestling fan, either, but this film went beyond that simple plot device, and as Mojo put it, took a fairly derivative, albeit well written story, and made it into something that is certainly an unexpected surprise.

    It was one of those rare moments where story, acting, direction, cinematography, and editing -and music and craft service, etc, etc. :) – combined into one of the better films in recent memory, on a subject I didn’t think I’d care about, with a lead actor who I’ve never really been enthralled with. That is rarefied air, indeed.

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December 2008

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