THE WRESTLER (Darren Aronofsky, 2008)

Raunchy, cruel, soap operatic, sickeningly violent, Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler is a worse, even more ridiculous comeback-film than Sidney Lumet’s The Verdict (1982). It suggests that I was right to stay away from Aronofsky’s films following his dismal debut, Π (1997); Aronofsky is too uninterested in the human condition to be any sort of artist. Early on, his protagonist, aging professional wrestler Randy “The Ram” Robinson, seated, is talking to someone who is standing. (Please understand that the scene is entirely naturalistic.) The other person is decapitated by the framing! Here, Aronofsky’s inhumanity perfectly coincides with his visual and technical incompetence.
     Neither scenarist Robert D. Siegel nor Aronofsky has bothered to give Robinson any sort of coherent history; all the latter has done is make him an eyesore. This may be the most mentally disturbed film ever made. True, it was Lionized at Venice, but Wim Wenders headed the jury.
     Mickey Rourke has broken the bank on best actor prizes for his role as Robinson, but even he has many times admitted that he leaned on his own personal history (as an exiled Hollywood star who has staged an impressive comeback) to fill in the part’s details and behavioral profile. Rourke has a moment or two of conviction; but for the most part he is stewed and out to sea, playing with what might be described as flamboyant restraint. Still, he is okay (which in truth is all he ever was). That cannot be said for Marisa Tomei playing a stripper/exotic dancer-mom who worries about Robinson after he suffers a heart attack. There isn’t the faintest hint of a continuous characterization in her Jennifer Jones-ish scene-playing.
     Above all, Aronofsky doesn’t feel a twinge of anything for any of his characters, including Robinson’s hysterical estranged daughter.


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