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The UnPopular Opinion: The Wrestler

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

After watching the new trailer for NOAH, I was prompted to go back and revisit all of Darren Aronofsky's films to date. Comments on NOAH's trailer ranged from calling Aronofsky a sell-out or praising the film's visuals. But, the majority questioned whether or not Aronofsky's first big studio film would signal the end of his run of quality films versus mainstream movie-making. As a big Aronofsky fan, I am very worried about NOAH, especially if the studio takes over the final cut of the film. But, NOAH is not Aronofsky's first foray into mainstream movie-making. Back in 2008, Aronofsky made his weakest film to date, the vastly overrated THE WRESTLER.

During his career, Darren Aronofsky has written all of his own movies. From his brilliant debut PI to REQUIEM FOR A DREAM and THE FOUNTAIN, Arronofsky was able to convey elaborate plots and original stories that would have stymied weaker filmmakers. What made these movies so good was that they did not rely on standard filmmaking techniques or narrative devices. Arronofsky signalled to Hollywood that he was a fringe director with a distinct voice. Then, THE WRESTLER happened. There is nothing special about THE WRESTLER visually or thematically that has not been done countless times before. Much like David O. Russell's THE FIGHTER, which Aronofsky was attached to direct at one point as well, THE WRESTLER is all about the performances while the film itself is left to suffer.

Damn, Kathleen Turner is looking rough.

Mickey Rourke is the crux to THE WRESTLER. It is his performance as Randy "The Ram" Robinson that makes this movie worth seeing. Rourke gives the best performance of his career in this movie by creating a haunted and broken man trying to reclaim one last shot at happiness. While Rourke is truly great in this part, there is nothing new here. Part ROCKY and part generic sports underdog story, THE WRESTLER hits every note you would expect. While Aronofsky and screenwriter Robert Siegel elect not to wrap the story with a happy ending, the ambiguous ending itself feels unoriginal and expected.

Evan Rachel Wood and Marisa Tomei play their roles well enough but their characters could easily have been called Stubborn Daughter and Stripper With The Heart of Gold. I would never object to seeing Marisa Tomei's ta-tas, spectacular as they are in multiple scenes in THE WRESTLER, but you can easily predict every line of dialogue she says on screen. She remains a two-dimensional character in a movie populated by two-dimensional characters. The only fully fleshed out character is Randy the Ram. In fact, Rourke is able to play dual characters: the broken man behind the wrestler, Robin Ramzinski, and his larger than life persona as The Ram. What does that say about a movie where a single actor is able to portray that duality on screen while an entire cast of others are mere shells that exist to progress the main plot?

I really wish I didn't have to crop this photo.

If we look at the two movies that Darren Aronofsky has directed and not written, THE WRESTLER and BLACK SWAN, the key difference is his approach to lensing and structuring the movies. While BLACK SWAN is a melodrama, it wallows in it's own paranoia and psychological discord and puts that on screen so that we can feel what the main character is going through. The sheer insanity of the story is what propelled Natalie Portman to her deserved Best Actress win at the Oscars. What kept Mickey Rourke from taking home the Best Actor prize for THE WRESTLER is that we never relate to his character. While the movie is shot in a hand held style that lends a documentary feel, THE WRESTLER is a static movie that we can not truly delve into.

Everything about professional wrestling is fake which is fitting since nothing about THE WRESTLER feels real. Too much focus was made trying to make Rourke's character feel real enough that you could relate to him and his plight with his daughter, his health, and his place in life, but then nothing is done to actually make you feel with him. Instead, you feel for him as he breaks down and ransacks his place of work, as his daughter rejects him for missing a dinner they were to have together, and as his body is mended with staples after an in-fight injury. You sense the pain because it is blatantly on screen, but you never truly feel sorry for Rourke's character in an authentic way.

Evan Rachel Wood was the top contender for Whiplash in IRON MAN 2 until Rourke stole her thunder.

Darren Aronofsky was attached to direct the reboot of ROBOCOP as well as what became James Mangold's THE WOLVERINE. Both films could very easily have been phenomenal if Aronosfky had been given free reign to use his range of directorial tricks, but studio interference would likely have doomed those films as well. We may never know, but if we look back at THE WRESTLER as a sample of what a mainstream Aronofsky film would look like, it instills little hope. Through the entirety of THE WRESTLER, I stretched my mind to see what made this movie a worthy addition to Darren Aronofsky's impressive filmography to date. The answer is nothing. THE WRESTLER does nothing to further Aronofsky as an an artist or a filmmaker. Rourke's performance is one to remember but because the film is not memorable in the least, many will only look back and remember THE WRESTLER when prompted to.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to [email protected], spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!
Source: JoBlo.com

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