Tuesday, September 22, 2009

TBG (Finally) Sees: The Wrestler

"Just finished 'The Wrestler'. I'm gonna say it: overrated. Like, a lot."

-- from my
Twitter feed, September 11

I don't say this often enough, but I love my readers. All eight of ya. I genuinely appreciate you guys for taking the time to read what I've written and the kind words of support I've received from many of you over the years.

And, with that out of the way…

In the immediate aftermath of my innocuous tweet, I received two or three equally harmless responses. The next day, I received a few private tweet responses and e-mails – including a couple that took me to task for my sentence fragment opinion.

With a week to digest the movie, I'm ready to jump into what I liked and what I didn't like about "The Wrestler".

Good: I'm nowhere near qualified to declare Mickey Rourke's performance worthy of an Oscar nomination, but you'll get no argument from me. I especially loved the tangible nuance he gave his Randy "The Ram" Robinson character. The effusive encouragement he gives to a star-struck upstart after they wrestle. His mortified response to the nametag he's forced to wear as a part-time supermarket deli employee. Even the delicate way he handles his reading glasses. Allow me to be the one billionth person to call Rourke the best thing about this movie.

Not-So-Good: Let's just get this out of the way…I give Marisa Tomei credit as she did all she could with a clichéd and underwritten role. I'd have had no problem with the whole "stripper with a heart of gold" nonsense, but the script veers off into this inexplicable parallel subplot where Tomei's "Cassidy" character experiences the Cliff's Notes version of Rourke's "am I too old for this sh*t" storyline.

Good: The movie respects the wrestling business. If you've never watched pro wrestling, this is a pretty big deal. The wrestlers are portrayed as real people in the locker room and outside the arena, while the fans aren't written as
knuckle-dragging mouth breathers.

Not-So-Good: "The Wrestler" frustrated the hell out of me sometimes. There were parts of the story that were inevitable: the deli clerk gig wasn't going to work out for a former pro wrestler and "The Ram" and Cassidy would have their falling out. The payoffs for these scenes didn't work for me. I mean, c'mon, who punches a meat slicer?

Good: I enjoyed "The Wrester", but mostly because of Mickey Rourke and the subject matter. It even kept Mrs. Bootleg's attention from beginning to end. Sure, I had to endure questions like, "Why is that guy called 'The Ayatollah' when he's Black?", but whatever.

Not-So-Good: Evan Rachel-Wood is fine as Robinson's daughter, but the handling of her character was right out of the "estranged angry-at-daddy" cookie-cutter factory. She makes it very clear she wants NOTHING to do with her father – even after finding out he's had a heart attack and has confronted his own mortality. A few scenes later, he shows up at her door with some second-hand clothes and all is forgiven? In their next scene together, Robinson's blown it again and his daughter makes it very clear (again) she wants NOTHING to do with her father. Are we sure? What if he brought her some used shoes?

Not-So-Good: Dude…that ending. I'm absolutely OK with the ambiguity. But, everything leading up to the climactic moment was more than a little silly, don'cha think? The stripper being allowed to stroll right into the wrestler's dressing room – and just moments before The Ram's big match. The promo Robinson cuts before the match. The Ram and Ayatollah "calling spots" during the match – filmed in a way that made it seem like they'd stopped wrestling entirely while engaged in a casual banter the entire crowd could hear. And, finally, that last shot of The Ram leaping off the turnbuckle.

Again, I liked the movie. I'm just saying the flaws were more pronounced than many fans of the film would admit.


SHough610 said...

I loved the Wrestler but only saw it once in theaters. I think my favorite little moment is when Rourke's playing Nintendo with the kid, beats him, and then wants the kid to stick aroud so Randy can "return the job".

That said, the ERW scene with Mickey Rourke scene on the pier ripped my heart out. A lot of the film was ambiguous and I felt that the relationship between Randy and his daughter was as well, so I was more resistant to some of the stuff than you.

As for the ending, I did t see it as ambiguous, but I don't want to spoil it. I'll message you on facebook.

I a non-spoiler way I think it bothered you because it was shot in a cinema verite style and it became very cinematic at the end.

And I don't know if you've been to Jersey but South Jersey is that much of a hole. I was also impressed with how the death match scene made me, a hardened long-time wrestling fan, wince at the violence

Jay said...

No Holds Barred was a better wrestling movie.

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU CAM!!! I liked this movie but didn't love it. The good outweighed the annoying but I was still irked at times while watching this. Great performance by Mickey Rourke and with a tighter script this could've been one of the best films of the decade.

That Bootleg Guy said...

We'll have to agree to disagree, Sam, cuz I didn't see anything ambiguous about the relationship between Randy and his daughter. First, she hated him. Then, she opened her heart to him. Then, she hated him again.

Speaking of hate, m'man Mex reminded me of the scene with the little old lady and the deli scale. I know I was *supposed* to hate her, but mine was REAL visceral hatred.

Tom said...

I know I was *supposed* to hate her, but mine was REAL visceral hatred.

I think that's part and parcel of having worked behind the counter in the service industry job combined with imagining waiting behind her in line. It's really a perfect storm of double hatred.