Challenge Week 16: The Wrestler

I decided I was a huge Darren Aronofsky fan on the strength of one film – The Fountain – and then proceeded to not really watch more of his filmography for a while, especially when his very next film dealt with a subject I could barely care less about – a washed up wrestler. (I’m now at 4/6 features, with Requiem for a Dream coming up later in the challenge.) I’m not generally a huge sports person, and boxing/wrestling/fighting sports are my least favorite. I was told “oh, but this is a character study!” but, I mean, so was Raging Bull and I didn’t care for that at all. So this was a risky choice, though I’m sure Ryan didn’t realize what a risky choice it was!

The saving grace of The Wrestler is how much I liked Randy the Ram himself – Mickey Rourke invests the character with a lot of weariness but also a lot of heart. He was a major WWE-style wrestler in the ’80s, but now it’s twenty years later and he’s on some kind of small pro circuit with a lot of other wrestlers who seem to be either aging like him or up-and-coming. Every fight is planned out in advance, but that doesn’t stop them from being brutal.

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I’ll be honest, I don’t get pro wrestling at all. I talked with some folks on Twitter last night about it, and clearly there’s something that that appeals to people (including plenty of other women), but it doesn’t to me at all. The one fight involving barbed wire and staples and forks and I don’t know what all else was so brutal I couldn’t even watch it. Thankfully (for me), Randy has a heart attack immediately after and spends much of the rest of the movie out of the ring, trying to repair his relationship with his daughter and start a new one with Marisa Tomei. This part of the movie was great, and like I said, Rourke’s performance is very sensitive and compelling.

I was pretty heartbroken when he decided to go back to wrestling, but I also understood why he would. I liked him so much that it was both difficult to watch him return to something that will likely kill him but it also felt right for the character. That’s the main difference, really, between this and Raging Bull – I didn’t get any more out of the fight scenes here, but I cared about Randy while I actively disliked Jake. I mean, Jake is SUPPOSED to be a dislikeable character, but knowing that didn’t make me enjoy the movie any more, know what I mean?

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The movie isn’t as stylistically interesting as The Fountain, Pi, or even Black Swan, but it does have some standout scenes and shots (the last one is particularly memorable), and utilizes the same following-close-behind tracking method as Black Swan – I believe I’ve read that the two films are meant to be close companions, and I can definitely see the comparison in terms of devotion to one’s calling even when it’s bad for you.

It’s hard to overcome my distaste for movies about wrestling/boxing, but this one managed to do it for the most part. I’ll be watching Rocky in a few weeks – I’m curious to see if that can manage to break through my resistance as well!

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Stats and stuff…

2008, USA
written and directed by Darren Aronofsky
starring Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood

I’m ranking all my Challenge films on Flickchart (as I do all the films I see), a movie-ranking website that asks you to choose your favorite between two movies until it builds a ranked list of your favorites. Just for fun, I will average out the rankings and keep a running tally of whose recommendations rank the highest. When you add a film to Flickchart, it pits it against films already on your chart to see where it should fall. Here’s how The Wrestler entered my chart:

The Wrestler > Velvet Goldmine
The Wrestler < The Miracle Woman
The Wrestler < Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India
The Wrestler < A Patch of Blue
The Wrestler < Random Harvest
The Wrestler > Top Five
The Wrestler > The Party
The Wrestler > Island of Lost Souls
The Wrestler > Falling Down
The Wrestler < Call Northside 777
The Wrestler > X-Men: Days of Future Past

Final ranking #1700 out of #3615 films on my chart (53%)

It is now my #4 Darren Aronofsky film, my #3 Mickey Rourke film, my #2 Marisa Tomei film, my #14 Slice of Life film (not totally sure how this is being defined….), my #11 Sports Drama and my #27 film of 2008.

The Wrestler was recommended by Ryan Swinimer, a friend from the Flickcharters group on Facebook.

A few quotes…

Necro Butcher: Are you cool with the staples?
Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson: Staples?
Necro Butcher: Staple gun… Not so bad on the way in, except it’s a little scary, you know – you got this metal thing pressed up against you. Gonna leave some marks, have to deal with a little blood loss.

Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson: I just want to tell you, I’m the one who was supposed to take care of everything. I’m the one who was supposed to make everything okay for everybody. It just didn’t work out like that. And I left. I left you. You never did anything wrong. I used to try to forget about you. I used to try to pretend that you didn’t exist, but I can’t. You’re my girl. You’re my little girl. And now, I’m an old broken down piece of meat… and I’m alone. And I deserve to be all alone. I just don’t want you to hate me.

Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson: The only place I get hurt is out there. The world don’t give a shit about me.

Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson: I just want to say to you all tonight I’m very grateful to be here. A lot of people told me that I’d never wrestle again and that’s all I do. You know, if you live hard and play hard and you burn the candle at both ends, you pay the price for it. You know in this life you can loose everything you love, everything that loves you. Now I don’t hear as good as I used to and I forget stuff and I aint as pretty as I used to be but god damn it I’m still standing here and I’m The Ram. As times goes by, as times goes by, they say “he’s washed up”, “he’s finished” , “he’s a loser”, “he’s all through”. You know what? The only one that’s going to tell me when I’m through doing my thing is you people here.

A few more screenshots…

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