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The Wrestler

Year: 2008
Production Co: Protozoa Pictures
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Director: Darron Aronofsky
Producer: Darron Aronofsky
Cast: Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood
I think the commercial failure of his long-gestating per project The Fountain scared Darren Aronofsky away from the direction he was heading - that's my only explanation for this movie that's certainly accomplished in its direction but pales into insignificance besides both his 2006 masterpiece and Requiem For a Dream.

Critics are also fawning all over Mickey Rourke, who was never a terribly good actor and isn't now, trading on his ability simply to look frail and mumble.

The parallels with Rocky Balboa are too strong to ignore - a hero from another, flashier period when he owned the world is broken down and unloved, still trying to ply his trade to a core of diehard fans who don't have the marketing clout the Rock n Roll Wrestling kids of the 80s had when Randy 'The Ram' (Rourke) was a phenomenon.

His daughter is estranged, he can't make a connection with the only woman who seems to like him, a stripper in a club he frequents (Tomei), and he's a tragic figure, reduced to working in a supermarket deli counter after years of such glory.

It was probably intended as a tragic character study of a man trying to find his life again. I saw it differently. I saw an ageing idiot who sold his soul for fame and glory on the back of skills (strength, youth) that he knew would fade, and who now feels sorry for himself because he never had any other prospects in life. Now that his body's giving up on him - thanks to an early heart attack that prompts his soul searching - he's realising there's nothing else to him.

After leaving his daughter (Wood) years before, trying to make peace with her is painful, but ironically too fast and easy (one of the film's several structural defects), and when everything goes wrong and he has nothing left but a final shot at glory, it's really a descent and not an ascent, Randy being sucked back into the life that we know will kill him, a narrative arc similar to Requiem in that it's your addictions that get you in the end, not your loved ones.

Randy's was fame. Without it, his life is empty and meaningless. But he let everything go to pursue it, and now that everything's gone, I just couldn't garner any sympathy for him.

The shining light of the film is Marisa Tomei. Now 44, Marisa might be feeling the onset of age and in the last few roles she's been willing to take her clothes off, maybe as a way of holding onto the spotlight. What she doesn't realise is that she's still scorching hot and watching her play a stripper is more erotic than most porn movies.

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