The Wrestler - tuesday 2008-12-30 1931 last modified 2009-01-13 0007
Categories: Film
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Darren Aronofsky continues to have a lot to say about individualism and isolation, and he continues to have the uncanny ability to make his point in the most squeamish and psychologically brutal of ways. If you're not in a good place in your life, even if you're not one to take much from a film, stay the hell away from Requiem for a Dream and The Wrestler. If you've managed to survive both, give yourself a pat on the back or make an appointment with a psychologist.

The Wrestler takes the feminine mother character played so brilliantly and so painfully by Ellen Burstyn in Requiem and re-envisions her private, unnoticed slide into insanity in the form of an athletic, macho father in the public arena. We associate aloofness and remoteness with the male gender, but as Aronofsky makes plain, no matter how socially accepted and expected that role is, it can lead to an equally destructive level of insanity. The tone of The Wrestler is much more moderate in comparison to the stylism of Requiem, more geared towards reality and identifiable characters, which makes the ultimate arc of the protagonist that much more heart wrenching. You won't think of your own mother in this one, you might think of yourself.

In a neat inversion, Ellen Burstyn's character waits in her dark and empty apartment in front of a television for the inevitable fame and celebrity that comes with a brilliant appearance on her favorite game show, a prospect suggested to her that never materializes; Mickey Rourke's character has the kind of fleeting fame that abandons all who achieve it. In the end, it's all he has. Rourke's story is all the more painful for the real connections he chooses to pursue and actually achieves but fails to sustain. He makes a leap into the outstretched arms of his fans - and there's nothing there.

Rourke's penultimate hardcore match is representative of the film, the message and its psychological effect writ punishingly in blood: should you choose such isolation, the ending is inevitable. The Wrestler is, like Requiem, extremely well done, but I'll have to stay away from Aronofsky from now on. And we were going to watch Slumdog Millionaire at the Arclight, but it sold out. I'm going to need some happy film fix.

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