Ooops, no, wait. Sorry. Not that The Wrestler. This The Wrestler, directed by Darren Aronofsky, starring this guy:
Yeah, I know; I gotta learn to use the manual focus when I go into zoom mode. But yes, that is Mickey Rourke, in mufti, at today's press conference.
The picture itself is as remarkable as you've heard. The reviews out of Venice and Toronto cited a paring down of Aronofsky's polyglot style, and noted a Dardennes influence, offering the many from-behind travelling shots of Rourke, as evidence. Yes and no. Unlike the work of the Dardennes, The Wrestler is hardly a film that's bereft of cinematic flourish. There's one sequence in which Rourke's gone-to-seed wrestler Randy "The Ram" is choreographing a particularly gonzo match with an "opponent," that cuts directly to the match's aftermath, both participants bloody as hell backstage, having their wounds attended to. Each particular wound heralds a flashback to the ring, where we see precisely how said wound was acquired. It's harrowing, as "real" as it gets...but nowhere near naturalistic. Another thing the festival notices didn't prepare me for is how funny the film often is. There are long stretches of out-and-out (albeit mordant) hilarity here.
I still get stick from some Aronofsky devotees for my Premiere review of Requiem For A Dream, in which I acknowledged that the director had a boatload of talent...but that he also lacked commiserate judgment. I was happy to see, in The Fountain, that he had gotten a lot smarter about just how to deploy his considerable gifts. This holds for The Wrestler—he's a major director now, without question. On the surface the story is a conventional one—a has-been is on the ropes, seeking redemption. The characters seem stock—the has-been's object of affection is a stripper, the has-been's got a daughter who's violently estranged from him. But Robert Siegel's script, and Aronofsky's direction, tells us some new things about these putative types. And the film is so convincingly steeped in a its peculiar subculture that it makes the alien seem familiar, and vice-versa. And yes, Rourke's performance is magnificent. Behind that ruin of a face you can see the cool guy of yore, and yet you're painfully aware that the ruin is what's left. That is, the other guy is gone.
It's a spectacularly impressive film. It'll be a blast to talk about in more detail when it opens in December.