Film Highlight: The Wrestler

Marisa Tomei and Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler
Niko Tavernise
Marisa Tomei and Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler

The Wrestler may be plenty visceral, but it's no more a sports movie than professional wrestling is a competitive sport. Chronic over-reacher Darren Aronofsky's relatively unpretentious follow-up to the debacle that was The Fountain is all about showbiz. You want to make a comeback saga, you get a washed-up star—in this case, Mickey Rourke, for whom Aronofsky and screenwriter Robert Siegel conceived the movie. Rourke gives a career performance as Randy "The Ram" Robinson—an amiably broken-down wrestler who was himself a star of the 1980s. Aronofsky dotes on the details of the Ram's routine (securing meds, getting a perm, visiting the tanning parlor), especially his preparations for a bout. The most gruesome bout is one in which a younger, more degenerate fighter introduces the Ram to the strategic use of a staple gun. It's this bloody mess, 20 minutes into the movie, that triggers the Ram's heart attack, landing him in the hospital with a doctor's warning that it's past time he retired. The Wrestler's vivid concern with the mortification of the flesh is given a spiritual dimension by the veteran stripper who goes by the nom de pole Cassidy (Marisa Tomei, Hollywood's go-to gal for an Oscar-quality lap dance). Not nearly as successful is the extended subplot about the Ram's attempted reconciliation with his abandoned, fabulously hostile, and disapproving daughter (Evan Rachel Wood). Rourke's character may be larger than the movie, but this time the Ram gets ground up in the mechanics of the plot.

 
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