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Directed by Darren Aronofsky,
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This is a film that resurrects two careers all at the same time, and maybe even three if you want to count Marisa Tomei. Who’d have thought that Mickey Rourke had so much talent, and flair, and the kind of fire that compels you to watch him on screen? He plays Robin Ramsinski, a washed-up wrestler who used to be at the top of his game, where he was known as Randy the Ram; now he’s probably nearing fifty and wrestling for a few bucks on weekends at union halls, VFW and American Legion halls, anyplace that the promoter can set up his ring and put out enough seats. The rest of the week he’s a warehouse man for a supermarket. Watching him among the other wrestlers in the dressing room, taking heart from the camaraderie as they go over the choreography of that night’s matches, seeing the way he binds himself up once again to go into the ring, then finding how the physical beating accumulates within the body; it plays like a documentary. Then, outside the ring, we watch in pain ourselves as he tries to reconnect with the daughter he abandoned, This is an extraordinary performance and was deservedly nominated for an Academy Award.
The second career to be resurrected is that of Darren Aronofsky, who burst onto the scene with “Pi,” one of the great films of the 1990s, then seems to have lost it with the sappy “Requiem for a Dream” and the unwatchable “The Fountain.” Now let us be glad for “The Wrestler,” which comes from an original script by Robert D. Siegel, who believe it or not used to be the editor in chief of The Onion. His script is tight, to the point, and always just a little understated. Nothing is hammered home to us. And Aronofsky has gotten brilliant performances out of his actors, without ever showing off his camerawork or overstating the moment.
The third career resurrected is Marisa Tomei, who plays an aging stripper and lap dancer at a club in the low-rent suburbs of New Jersey, who obviously likes Randy but won’t have a relationship with him.
Evan Rachel Wood is Randy’s daughter, who makes one great effort to respond when her dad tries to reconnect with her; the pain and the hope are there in her eyes. Altogether, “The Wrestler” is a brilliant piece of work, hopeful, fascinating, painful, even torturous to watch –but it rewards every viewer with wonderful talents at their very best.