Monday, December 29, 2008

"The Wrestler": Believe the Hype

“The Wrestler”: Believe the Hype

The hype surrounding “The Wrestler” was enough to kill any film; “Mickey is back!” “The best-actor Oscar!” Yet in all honesty, without the hype I would not have paid the admission to watch men in tights and wigs smash each other to a pulp. In fact as a bourgeois ABD yogini female the WWF is something I have carefully avoided my entire life. But on that note, the film is an insightful commentary on the male population who seek such entertainment, on class and education boundaries that promote it, and on the effects such “sports” have on their labor. One should be forewarned, according to the film’s gripping realism, professional wrestlers do not fake all of the blood and back breaking, (or rather some of the faking is actually done with razors.)

For this reason the film is ingenious and difficult to watch. In the film’s first half, the audience intimately witnesses the wreckage done to “Randy the Ram” (Mickey Rourke.) His tightly framed face screams agony and repression louder than the referee’s megaphone. Close-ups of his limbs twisting and then pounding down (the sound design is grueling) left me squirming with sympathy in my seat. To this extent Aronofsky has surpassed and banalized violence in cinema; for rather than presenting us with the realism of violence in war, "The Wrestler" presents us with the realism of violence in performance— within a performance.

The casting of Mickey Rourke as Randy makes the paradigm complete. Rourke like Randy enjoyed considerable success in the 80s as a bad boy. In addition, though Rourke never wrestled, he enjoyed another concussion inducing sport, boxing, and did brutal damage to his brain and face. Although the basic storyline is often trite, (an overacted angry daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) emerges almost as an afterthought,) Rourke is so compelling in this role that the camera and the audience can scarcely focus on secondary matters. Therefore, there is barely enough space to contemplate another age-limited industry, stripping, though Pam (Marisa Tomei) skillfully demonstrates the other sex’s more typical compromise. If you are one for 80s nostalgia, you will enjoy all the hair-metal hits that might have been played at wrestling events, as well as the superb score co-written by Slash. The film closes with an almost too appropriate Bruce Springsteen song “One-trick pony” providing the perfect finale to a picture about an underclass of the entertainment industry. To this extent "The Wrestler" can be compared not only to "Rocky", and "Raging Bull" but to "Boogie Nights."

No comments: