The Wrestler (2008, Darren Aronofsky)

Supposedly Mickey Rourke’s big comeback film, but I first heard of Mickey Rourke in 2005’s Sin City, and I didn’t think three years was all that long a wait. Checking his imdb page, I’ve seen him in four other movies this decade so it’s not like he hasn’t been around. But these statements are made by the same kinds of people who didn’t see Johnny Depp in anything between Edward Scissorhands and Pirates of the Caribbean. Point is it’s a showcase film for Rourke, who’s rumored to be the same kinda washed-up aging broke druggie loser as his character. Does his acting shine in this? Oh yes: comeback achieved, awards deserved. Does the rest of the movie hold up? Not really, no.

First off, I knew this would be a smaller film after Aronofsky got himself into the shithouse with hyper-expensive personal epic The Fountain, but I didn’t realize he was following the new indie wave towards handheld follow-cam dramas. Seems about a sixth of the film was the back of Mickey Rourke’s head walking between rooms. There’s nothing here, not even in the Clint Mansell score, reminiscent of our ol’ Aronofsky. The man’s got a right to change, but by flushing his sense of style, he’s making it so the next time there’s “a film by D. Aronofsky” it’s not going to mean anything.

Written by The Onion’s Robert Siegel, and there’s some good comedy when Rourke’s supermarket boss Todd Barry is around, but the writing is kinda garbage overall. The attraction here is the performance, and less the acting and line-reading and emotion than the physicality, The Body of Rourke (oh, and the fine Springsteen song over the credits). Take that away, or give it to a lesser body (say, the early-rumored casting of The Body of Nicolas Cage) and you haven’t got a theatrical release, you’ve got something that dies on video… Jesus metaphors, stripper with heart of gold, overplayed/underwritten Evan Rachel Wood performance and all.

Oh, he dies at the end.

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