Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Wrestler

Mickey Rourke's strong performance makes the picture, but otherwise I was disappointed. I deeply admire The Fountain, but here Darren Aronofsky has made just another Hollywood picture. The rich and resonant motifs and symbolism are used in the service of a rather banal and clichéd story, which does not cover new ground and shows little maturity. The scenario of the loser bad father who loves the Madonna whore, and has an estranged histrionic daughter is too hackneyed to sustain the crucifixion motif: pearls before swine. The hand-held camera perpetually trying to keep up with Randy may give the film an Indie cinema verite feel, but the cliché overload makes it redundant. The Magdalenesque ending is predictable and cloying.

But what really strikes me is the unrelieved ugliness of the appalling wrestling scenes and its contrived yet explicit violence. With respect, I feel not a few commentators on this movie let wrestling and those who promote it and enjoy it, undeservedly off the hook.

If there is any deeper symbolism, and here I give Aronofsky the benefit of the doubt, it is that in a market economy, even the human body is simply a commodity, 'meat' ripe for exploitation and abuse - be it wrestler's steroid-enhanced body or the explicit cavorting of a stripper.

Randy's alienation needs to be exploded not glorified.