Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Wrestler

My Oscar movie Festival continued a day earlier as planned as yesterday I caught “The Wrestler”. I was a big Mickey Rourke fan starting with his small but impressive role in one of my all time favorite movies, “Body Heat”. In fact, I famously (in my circle of friends) predicted after seeing “Body Heat” that he would become a big star. He followed that up with great performances in “Diner”, “Rumble Fish”, “The Pope of Greenwich Village”, “9 ½ Weeks”, and “Angel Heart”. Then, his career and life began a long, downward spiral.

The story of how “The Wrestler” came to be a movie at all mirrors how Rourke came to play the lead. He really is as good as advertised in this. You can feel his aches and pains, you can feel his pride in what he does, you can feel his desire for wanting to get back into his daughters life, but knowing that he would find some way to mess that up as well. The film has a low budget feel about it, either by design or because the filmmakers had almost no money. It’s gritty, it’s grimy, it’s seedy – just as his life is. And the speech Rourke makes near the end of the film as he speaks to a wrestling event audience could very easily have been a speech about his personal life and career. There were also a couple of other incredible scenes that stayed with me – one with Rourke playing an old Nintendo game with a neighborhood kid and the other, Rourke sitting at a table at a wrestling legends signing event. This is not a feel-good movie and you knew, pretty early on, how the 3 major plot lines would end. But the journey getting there was enthralling.

Two other observations: (1) the movie is only showing at 1 theater here in DFW, an artsy-type theater near SMU. I went to the earliest showing (1:30) and it was packed. Old, young, men, women, but no kids and no talking even before the movie began. And when the lights came up, the common word or phrase you heard as….”intense”…”wow, that was pretty intense”….etc. (2) Marisa Tomei has also gotten a lot of hype and buzz with her role as a quasi love-interest. I’m not saying she wasn’t good, but I was wondering if the buzz had more to do with how great she looks. You know this because for the vast majority of her scenes, she isn’t wearing much. For a 40-something actress, doing numerous topless and almost nude dance scenes might have more to do with her buzz.

All-in-all a tremendous performance by Rourke. A must-see for any fan of his or if you enjoy seeing an actor redeeming himself after years of being at the bottom of the heap, both personally and professionally. Be prepared for violence and blood, much of which is rumored to be actually Rourke.

1 comment:

Scooter said...

Don't forget Barfly. I won't see it before the awards but I'll definitely watch when it makes it to cable.