[In the L's Holiday Gift Guide Issue, we presented a Holiday Film Preview of sorts: Reviews of Movies We Haven't Seen, banking on the predictability of the holiday-movie industrial complex, and also our own tendency to review movies before seeing them. So let's see how we did. Here, I, who wrote the one on The Wrestler — reviewed in the L by Benjamin Strong — compare my preview to my actual response.]
Aronofsky, second-year film student laureate of Hebrew numerology, glossy magazine spread junkie despair and sub-Castanedan metaphysics, turns his hyperbolizing gaze toward professional wrestling and sees arenas jammed with broken heroes on a last-chance power drive. But as deflated steroids-and-spandex spectacle Randy "the Ram" Robinson, Marlboro Man-turned-plastic surgery disaster Mickey Rourke has so much coulda-been-a-contender pathos you almost don’t begrudge Aronofsky for freeze-framing as he’s beaten back against the ropes, arms outstretched in an unmistakable crucifixion pose.
This one is not really fair because of course there’s going to be a crucifixion pose. Though in fact it comes when he’s leaping from the top rope, arms outstretched. Also, he has a Jesus tattoo.
Although I just threw the Springsteen quote in because it sounded good, it turns out I was exactly right about it: there’s an (original!) sad-America acoustic Springsteen song that plays over the end credits, fer chrissakes.
And yes of course there’s tons of pathos in Mickey Rourke’s performance as a coulda-been contender, but then again I cried at Once Upon a Time in Mexico* so perhaps I am not the best judge of this. Then again everybody else has been flipping for him in this movie, too, so again it wasn’t much of a stretch. Man, when Mickey Rourke wins the Oscar, and brings his beloved chihuahuas** up on stage with him, that is going to be terrific.
One thing I could not have predicted, though, is that this movie is structured around the lead-up to a 20th anniversary bout between The Wrestler and his long-ago heel. The bout that’s being commemorated took place in April of 2009, and we see the anniversary bout. That’s right: The Wrestler takes place in the future. The future!
My friends, this movie is maybe kind of awesome? Like Mickey Rourke has a bad heart, and his stripper girlfriend, played by Marisa Tomei, is all like please baby don’t go out there and wrestle, and he’s like no baby I have to go out there and wrestle. And he is maybe also a metaphor for George W. Bush? In conclusion, this movie is exactly the movie you knew it would be, but sillier.
* Not strictly “true.”
** If I was still in college and starting Facebook groups for laughs all willy-nilly, I would probably be the founder of a group called “Mickey Rourke Really Loves His Chihuahuas”.*
* Either that or “Dear Sweet Christ I Am So, So Gay for Mickey Rourke in Body Heat.”