The Wrestler

Mickey Rourke deserves the praise - and the director ain't bad either

The Wrestler is a new venture for director Darren Aronofsky and a step away from his previous work, such as π and Requiem for a Dream. This time Aronofsky is shining a light at American capitalist culture through the story of Randy ‘the Ram’ Robinson.

Randy (Mickey Rourke) is an ageing wrestler who, 20 years past his prime, is eking out a living on the independent wrestling circuit and trying to make sense of his life. It would be easy to take up a whole review talking solely about Rourke's performance. The comparisons between Rourke and his character are unmistakable and this is perhaps the reason he seems so comfortable in the role. 

It becomes clear early on that Randy gained wealth and fame when he was young, made a few mistakes and spent the rest of his life trying to get back on top. Sound familiar? 

Comparisons aside, Rourke delivers a knockout performance that adds depth to the meaning of the film. The viewer feels like they know Randy intimately, and share his highs and his lows. This is all down to Rourke’s ability to play the lover, the fighter, the loner and the father and bring them all together in one outstanding performance.

However impressive the lead role is, a film is nothing without its support cast. Marisa Tomei also puts in a strong performance as the stripper Cassidy whose situation mirrors Randy’s. This inevitably pushes them together in their bid to find comfort and support.

The overall feeling of loneliness throughout the story is made tangible by the fact that Randy’s world consists of many acquaintances and not many friends. Aronofsky plays on this. Apart from Cassidy and Randy's estranged daughter, there is no other character of significance in the film. 

Aronofsky's style was perhaps best represented with the unbearably clostrophobic π, yet The Wrestler still feels very much like an Aronosky film. The script is tight yet feels spontaneous, bringing a realism to the language and overall tone of the piece. 

At times it feels very much like a documentary, with all the dramatic components that you might expect. 

A good example of this is when we see Randy walking in one continuous shot from the staff area to the deli counter of the supermarket he works in. As he approaches the door to the shop floor the roar of fans can be heard, getting louder and louder until Randy finallywalks out. At this moment the roaring crowd disappears and is replaced simply by the sound of the shop, providing a brilliant comparison of Randy the Ram and just plain Randy Robinson.

The Wrestler cleaned up at the Venice Film Festival, and with good reason. The efforts of all involved come together beautifully to make an emotional, meaningful film that is sure to live up to the hype. 

Michael Leggett

Storm Cinemas - Belfast.