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"The Wrestler"

Directed by Darren Aronofsky.
Written by Robert D. Siegel.
Starring Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood.
Release Year:  2008
Review Date:  11/17/08


Free movie, packed house, great stuff, Q & A with the director and the lead screening of "The Wrestler" was all that and a bag of chips, baby!

So, background--Darren Aronofsky made "Pi", then "Requiem for a Dream", and then accepted the happy thanks of millions of indie film fans.  Then, he waited six years to make "The Fountain", which was not well received because it wasn't an indie-spirited film...and, it sucked.  So, why should we believe that Aronofsky was anything more than a fluke?

Because "The Wrestler" is great for the reasons that I remember liking truly independent films in the first place.  It has a story that, trust me, you haven't seen before: a pro wrestler 20 years past his heyday, Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Mickey Rourke), is still working the underground circuit as well as working part-time jobs to get by while living in a trailer park.  And, no, it's not a fact, it's a sad tale of a man down on his luck, living in Jersey, neglecting a daughter from a past relationship, and occasionally getting lap dances from a slightly-older-than-norm stripper named Cassidy (Marisa Tomei).  It's almost as if Scorsese did a drama based on the life of Hulk Hogan...and, it freakin' works!!

Chuck Longer, see this film!!  Brett Stone, see this film!!  Fans of the WWF, see this film!!  And, oh, Aronofsky fanboy--see this film!!  "The Wrestler" is funny (never laugh-out-loud funny, but some solid laughs), it was written by a former staffer at The Onion, it has an incredible lead performance by Rourke, it's got Evan Rachel Wood doing what Evan Rachel Wood does best...explode emotionally; Tomei plays a stripper with a personality (bang, bang!!), and you get a film that looks like it is low budget because it was shot low-budget ($6 million).  There's even a scene with an old-school Nintendo that nearly brought a tear to my eye.  One tear, though.

The film is a little eh at the three-quarter mark, but it recovers nicely by giving us more Rourke doing more of what got us through to that point of the film.  "The Wrestler" may or may not be Oscar material, but its biggest accomplishment is re-establishing Aronofsky as a guy worth watching.  This may be his best film and it now makes me forget that "The Fountain" ever happened.  And, Rob Grant--your love of the hair bands comes through full-tilt boogie in this film, so maybe this is for you, too!

Rating:  Opening Weekend


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09