One of the most unique young-auteur directors of today, Darren Aronofsky, is a shape-shifter grounded in his Harvard education. With his 1998 debut film π (Pi), Darren used math as a device to push a psychotic genius towards success (or his demise) as he attempted to predict the stock market. His second film was an adaptation of the Hubert Shelby Jr. novel entitled Requiem For A Dream which Aronofsky directed in 2000. Requiem For A Dream chronicled the lives of addicts (specifically drug addicts) as their lives fell deeper down an irreversible downward spiral. The Fountain (2006) crossed the lines of science fiction and history as it told the story of one man (Hugh Jackman) in three of his different lives through time as he attempted to reach nirvana. In 2008, he directed The Wrestler which is considered by Aronofsky to be a companion film to his psychological-horror film about ballet entitled Black Swan (2010).Starring Mickey Rourke as Randy "The Ram" Robinson and Marisa Tomei as a stripper known as Cassidy, both characters embody similar roles in one of the overarching themes of the film. Cassidy is a mother of a nine year old and is considered by many of the clients to be too old regardless of her physical shape and presence as a stripper. Similarly, Randy is in his late fifties with a great history of success as a professional wrestler in the 1980s, but now that he is back in the realm of wrestling he is beginning to realize that he can't handle all of the physical stress (even though he has every spectator's admiration as a veteran in the wrestling industry).
The Wrestler is, by far, Darren Aronofsky's greatest film to date as it blends drama and action with grace and brutality and is gripping to viewers who may regard wrestling as "dirty" or "unsophisticated" (especially in comparison to Black Swan which is set in the realm of beauty and sophistication).
One of the greatest challenges in dramatic filmmaking is crossing the line of melodrama (a problem that a few of Aronofsky's past films have suffered from), but The Wrestler captures a vivid picture of reality in this fictional tale. Everything from the daughter that Randy abandoned in the 80s (Evan Rachel Wood), to Cassidy's friendship with her frequent client Randy; The Wrestler is a beautiful depiction of life with flawed people who have deep emotional scars (and in the case of Randy, physical scars too), but it is also a film that shows their redeeming qualities with great joy.
On a technical level, The Wrestler has a wonderful combination of rough and life-capturing cinematography. Almost always handheld, the cinematography is highly reminiscent to documentary style filmmaking (this same style would be used for Black Swan as well). The handheld camera gives the film an additional sense of realism and also places the audience in the ring with Randy "The Ram".
Mickey Rourke is in top physical shape and plays the role to perfection in his comeback film. During his time away from acting in the 1990s, Mickey Rourke became a professional boxer and now suffers from short-term memory loss (similarly implied to be a symptom that his character Randy suffers from as well). Rourke's experience as a fighter only enhances his visceral performance as a wrestler trying to return to the fame and glory he once had.
Majority of the soundtrack is rock anthems from the 80s (Guns N' Roses and Ratt specifically), and the films score by Clint Mansell features Slash on guitar. This touch adds to the atmosphere of the film and automatically places the audience in the mind of a man who lived through the 1980s and thoroughly enjoyed it.
The Wrestler is a gritty film, but it is filled with life and powerful performances that make this film a pleasure to watch. Blending artistry and classic-commercial-style filmmaking, this film is memorable and worth the time of viewers everywhere.
My ranking: 5/5 stars