Friday, January 23, 2009

REVIEW: The Wrestler

The Wrestler

Year: 2008
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood, Todd Barry, Mark Margolis
Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures
MPAA: Rated R

I'm a fan of director Darren Aronofsky's work. I think hes a great director and Requiem for a Dream is still one of my personal favorites. So when his next film "The Wrestler" came along, I didn't know what to think. I mean the film sounded kind of plain from the premise I read and was somewhat of a departure for director Aronofsky whose previous films have all been weird, mind puzzling, pieces of art. Than I saw the reviews for the film and was surprised that the film actually delivered. Still, I kept my distance from the film simply because other films coming out looked alot more interesting. It was only until last week, when another fellow blogger named Fletch asked me to watch this film in a comment about the new villain for Iron Man 2.

Plot Outline:
Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Mickey Rouke), is a pro wrestler who is still trying to cling on to his past. He's old, broke and all alone, but still participates in wrestling and struggles constantly to keep his life on the right track. He's also desperately trying to fix a broken relationship with his daughter Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood) who hates him and tries to start a serious relationship with a stripper named Cassidy (Marisa Tomei). His whole life is a mess and things only became more complicated after he suffers a heart attack.

The story for the film is pretty great. While The Wrestler wont win any awards for its script, the script still manages to keep a feel of realism in its story. I always wanted to see a good film based on the background of wrestling. I mean we all know wrestling is fake, but what goes on backstage is another story. What I really liked about this film was the fact that it kept everything to a real minimum. The story was simply just straight forward with hardly any surprises. We don't know everything that goes on backstage or what wrestlers do before a match, but the fact that everything wasn't told in a childish way is what did it for me. Everything just felt real and plain simple like the way it should be. Even the handy cam that the director chose to go with worked for me. Every shot seemed like it was just filmed with normal cameras and made the audience feel like they were right their with the main character Randy. I thought the whole cusp of the story worked nicely and delivered a solid experience about what it feels like to be on top. I also felt the ending for the film was simply beautiful and worked very nicely with where the films story was headed. What I found alittle disappointing with the film was the fact that the supporting cast didn't get enough character development. I really felt like I should be caring much more about the character Cassidy or Randy's loving daughter Stephanie.

Mickey Rourke plays as the main star of the film, Randy "The Ram" Robinson. Rourke has been getting alot of attention for his role in this film and frankly he doesn't disappoint. He delivers a strong performance as Randy and the best performance of his career. Director Darren Aronofsky did everything in his power to secure Rourke in this role and even backed him up when studio execs were willing to go with someone else. I'm amazed to see such a great director going trough so much trouble to keep the right person he believes to be for this role. The lovely Marisa Tomei plays as Cassidy. She gives a good performance that I enjoyed and one that seemed to work fine. I'm really surprised on how well Tomei surprises me every time I see her in a film. Shes been getting alot of solid roles and I hope shes keeps it up. Evan Rachel Wood plays as Randy's daughter, Stephanie. She gives a pretty good performance, but I felt she was just screaming for the most part. I think she did a fine job here, but I could have seen someone else play this role slightly more better. Todd Barry plays as Randy's Boss, Wayne. He's somewhat funny in his role and I thought he was just right for this part. Theirs one hilarious scene in the film involving Barry's character looking at porno on his computer in his office.

The visual look of The Wrestler isn't something that's going to blow your socks off. The film was just released a couple months ago and its film source is somewhat clean for the most part. Their was grain here and their, but I think this was the directors choice to keep the film more real. Colors are hardly anything to brag about. The film seems to have a muted look to it for the rest of the film. Colors don't pop like I would have liked them to. The only time the colors show some and I mean very little vibrancy is when Randy is in the ring wrestling. Their were a few parts of the film that seemed alittle too dark. I mean its fine when a movie is dark, but its not fine when you can hardly see anything. Black levels were somewhat strong and held up pretty well in most shots. Flesh tones seemed alright, but didn't exactly look natural the way I would have wanted to them. Detail is also mediocre at best. Close up shots just don't show the amount of detail you would expect from a new release film like this. Again, I think the film was just simply shot like this to make the film seem more realistic.

The soundtrack in The Wrestler is pretty great and much better than the video quality of the film. The film was scored by composer Clint Mansell who also composed the music for Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain, both of which were directed by Darren Aronofsky. Mansell does a good job here and his score for the film worked fine. Whats even better is that Bruce Springsteen recorded a theme for the film simply titled "The Wrestler". This song is great and really goes well with the film. Its just a shame it doesn't play through out the film, but rather at the end credit. The film also features a good amount of bass. I wasn't expecting this film to wow me in the bass department and it simply didn't, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a good amount of bass involved in this type of film. Dynamics weren't as clear and all around as I would have liked, but it still seems front heavy. Also the volume on the bass was slightly below average, but the film still features a decent amount of bass.

The Wrestler was a great movie that I very much enjoyed. Its got a great story that's touching and pretty interesting to watch. I'm amazed to see director Darren Aronofsky handle such a great movie with absolute care even though its nothing like his previous films hes done before. The cast is great with Mickey Rourke giving a performance that's easily the best hes ever given and one that's sure to surprise alot of people. He was the ideal choice for this role and I'm so happy to have seen him play it so smoothly. The visual look of the film is pretty bad and somewhat dark. I'm sure this was the directors intent to make the film seem more realistic, but its pretty bad in terms of today's standards. The soundtrack is pretty great and completes the film. I enjoyed Bruce Springsteen's "The Wrestler" theme and thought it went well with the film. I can easily recommend this film to those looking for a great movie. Even if you aren't a wrestling fan, this is still a movie to definitely watch.

Grade: B+


vicki said...

wow...what a great, detailed review!

sweet blog :)

Farzan said...

Thanks vicki

micky said...

saw this the other day at my local theater and actually really liked it. i thought it was much better than what rourke was making these days.

Emma said...

Great review, I'd grade it B/B+ too. It was a compelling watch, terribly depressing, but great cinema.

Fletch said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it. Your last comment rang true, as Mrs. Fletch knows nothing about wrestling and could not care less, but still enjoyed the movie a lot. Though I have to disagree with your statement about the look of the film being bad. It's definitely lo-fi, but not only is that on purpose, but I thought the cinematography, specifically during the action scenes, was terrific. You literally felt like you were one of the wrestlers in the ring, and despite it being done with a hand-held camera, the choppy editing and shaky-cam feel wasn't there. You could tell what was going on the entire time.

Farzan said...

agree Fletch that the shaky-cam feel wasnt their like the Bourne films have.

free movie said...

Very nice review. I am impressed with the review and do find it the best one so far I have read. I like the way you have categorized the review by talking on all the main focus point.