Monday, January 12, 2009
The Wrestler: meh
Not a great film, by far; I think I am going to side with the dissenters - Peter Rainer, here, who emphasizes the film's lack of originality, or even Armond White (tho' I don't see much in the way of "repulsive, violent nihilism" afoot, and found Johnny Handsome unwatchably bad at the time, tho' it's been awhile). Both Rainer and White find the parallel made at the beginning of the film between Rourke's Randy "the Ram" Robinson and Mel Gibson's Christ cause for eye-rolling, but I would have been willing to play along if only the film had been more interesting. There are likeable moments - Rourke brings considerable warmth to some scenes, for instance when he is working at a deli counter, psyching himself up for it as he would a performance in the ring - but the characterizations are so undercooked and formulaic that one never cares deeply about his relationships or his struggles, and the final set up - Randy walking in to what may turn out to be his martyrdom in the ring - has far less drama to it than one would like. And is anyone else voicing suspicion at what Aronofsky does with his actresses? I found Jennifer Connolly to be a bit cheaply exploited and degraded in the sex party in Requiem for a Dream, and there's something equally suspect about Aronofsky's handling of Marisa Tomei's nudity as a stripper. I didn't really need to see her pole dancing with a thong up her ass in order to appreciate the parallels between her job and Randy's; the camera seems to linger on her flesh at times more as a testimony to Aronofsky's power as a director ("see what she will do for me?" a la Sevigny/Gallo) than because it somehow enhances our understanding of her character or profession for us to grope her with our eyes. The Wrestler is not terrible, but the overwhelmingly positive response is testimony more to critical desperation for real cinema than the merits of the film; it is a very, very small success, which in some ways is worse than a huge failure.