"The Wrestler" stars Academy Award Nominees Mickey Rourke & Marisa Tomei
Written by Robert Siegel, former editor of The Onion, "The Wrestler" spends 105 minutes grappling at the edge of camp, cheap laughs and cliches.
Yet the way it's handled by director Darren Aronofsky and especially by Mickey Rourke -- who really should get an Oscar for his portrayal of Randy "The Ram" Robinson, a steroid-addled sweetie in tights -- it stays honest and keeps on fighting.
"The Wrestler" works for the same reason "Rachel Getting Married" works.
The way they're acted, shot, edited and scored, both films deploy a loose, rough-hewn documentary style to great dramatic advantage. The corn isn't hyped. The performances click without going for the jugular.
It is a pleasure to see Rourke finesse this amalgamation of "The Champ," "Marty," "Rocky" and a dozen other movies to his supreme advantage.
Aronofsky directs so that we notice, and appreciate, his discretion, even when he's showing Rourke pulling staple-gun staples out of his hide after a particularly rough bout in the ring. For several minutes we do not see Rourke's face. First he's sitting in the corner of a grade-school classroom, his back to the camera. This is how low The Ram has fallen since his stardom in the '80s: He's reduced to wrestling in a makeshift arena set up in a grade school and waiting in his "dressing room" for a percentage of the gate.
For much of "The Wrestler" the camera follows Randy from behind, like an eager autograph hound, as he approaches each new combat arena, or as he pounds on the door of his mobile home court manager's office.
The others on this B-minus wrestling circuit have names such as The Funky Samoan or Lex Lethal. The Ram is well-liked by all. His life is one of routines and routine disappointments along with diversions. He wears a cumbersome hearing aid, hangs out with his stripper pal Cassidy (Marisa Tomei) and, for the purposes of the plot, tries to reconnect with his estranged daughter (Evan Rachel Wood).
The Ram has heart problems, but "The Wrestler" does not.
It's sincere, violent, sentimental, predictable and extremely effective. Rourke's a remarkable physical specimen every which way, and he takes some amazing punishment, amazingly choreographed, in the wrestling scenes. He takes punishment in the more hackneyed off-ring scenes with his daughter, too, but Wood and Rourke treat the material like gold, and damned if their scenes don't work. One of the best bits has Randy working the deli counter at his supermarket, and the way he banters with the customers ("Whatcha havin', good-lookin'?" Randy asks one shlubby middle-age fellow), you sense a born performer in action.
Any number of directors and actors could've messed up "The Wrestler" -- oversold its line of goods.
Not Aronofsky and Rourke. They know, in their bones, this script is shameless. The trick is framing it as the right kind of shamelessness. Bruce Springsteen knows it, too, and his end-credits song, no less on the nose than the rest of this savvy, pungent little winner, pays tribute to all the lonely entertainers out there, working the crowds if there are crowds to be worked.
The Wrestler Movie Trailer
"The Wrestler" (2 Academy Award Oscar Nominations)
MPAA rating: R (for violence, sexuality/nudity, language and some drug use).
Running time: 1:45.
Starring: Mickey Rourke (Randy "The Ram" Robinson); Marisa Tomei (Cassidy); Evan Rachel Wood (Stephanie).
Directed by Darren Aronofsky; written by Robert Siegel; photographed by Maryse Alberti; edited by Andrew Weisblum; music by Clint Mansell; production design by Tim Grimes; produced by Scott Franklin and Aronofsky. A Fox Searchlight Pictures release.
"Slumdog Millionaire" Leads the Way
81st Academy Award Oscar Winners 2009
In much the same manner that the film captured the hearts of movie-goers, "Slumdog Millionaire" captured the hearts and votes of the Academy garnering 8 Oscars in total, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Sean Penn won his second Best Actor Academy Award for his role as Harvey Milk in the movie "Milk," while Kate Winslett won her first Oscar in the Best Actress category for he role as Hanna Schmitz in "The Reader."
Heath Ledger won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as the Joker in "The Dark Knight," posthumously. Ledger died on January 22, 2008 after an accidental drug overdose. Penelope Cruz won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as Elena Maria in "Vicky Christina Barcelona."
"WALL-E" took home the Oscar for Best Animated Feature:
This year's top Academy Awards nominated film, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" with 13 Oscar nominations, won 3 Oscars (Achievement in Art Direction, Makeup & Visual Effects).
2009 OSCAR NOMINEES 81st Academy Awards
2009 Academy Award Oscar Winners
2009 Best Picture Oscar Nominations
2009 Best Animated Feature Oscar Nominations
2009 Best Lead Actress Oscar Nominations
- Anne Hathaway in "Rachel Getting Married"
- Angelina Jolie in "Changeling"
- Melissa Leo in "Frozen River"
- Meryl Streep in "Doubt"
- Kate Winslet in "The Reader"
2009 Best Lead Actor Oscar Nominations
- Richard Jenkins in "The Visitor"
- Frank Langella in "Frost/Nixon"
- Sean Penn in "Milk"
- Brad Pitt in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
- Mickey Rourke in "The Wrestler"
2009 Best Supporting Actress Oscar Nominations
- Amy Adams in "Doubt"
- Penélope Cruz in "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"
- Viola Davis in "Doubt"
- Taraji P. Henson in "Benjamin Button"
- Marisa Tomei in "The Wrestler"
2009 Best Supporting Actor Oscar Nominations
- Fired Up
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- No Country wins Best Picture, Best Director. Daniel Day-Lewis wins best actor for his role in "There Will Be Blood". Javier Bardem, Tilda Swinton Win Supporting Role Academy Awards, Ratatouille awarded Oscar for Best Animation Feature