Thursday, April 9, 2009
Masochism. The Masochist. That's what the Wrestler could be called. That's what I'm calling it.
The Masochist starts out with Mickey Rourke not facing the camera, in fact much of the film takes place from behind Randy "the Ram" as he's called in the film. Tracking shots, grainy film, it all feels so real, so authentic, like that documentary "Beyond the Mat" a friend of mine who was wrestling buff made me watch, but like professional wrestling it isn't real, even if it kinda feels real it's still fake. This another one of Darren Aronofsky's mood pieces. All his films are mood pieces, not different moods really, just the same gut feeling you get watching "Requiem for a Dream" or "Pi" and to a much lesser extent "The Fountain". It's a queasy uneasy feeling you get while watching them, they've tapped into some part of your psych that just makes you want to turn away, close your eyes, and have this moment pass. He could probably make the greatest horror film ever made.
This is not the greatest sports film ever made.
For all it's indie trappings it's such a paint by numbers movie, side plots like Ram's budding relationship with a stripper named Cassie (or Pam, stage name vs. real name, play a pivotal role in this film) and his reunion with his long estranged daughter go down exactly how you expect them. Aronofsky's credit should be that he gets the maximum from these cliché scenes, but instead of making them work he should have spent the time taking them new.
Speaking on the down on her luck stripper, Marisa Tomei, gives a good solid performance, and is as you've heard is quite naked in this film. People are listing her nudity as a reason to see the film. I bring this up, because again it's a place where the movie that's trying so hard to be real let's you know it's fake, it's Hollywood. Hollywood movies always do this, they cast ridiculously good looking people in parts and then try and pretend they're plain and normal, no wonder teenage girls get eating disorders. If Marisa Tomei was stripper, she wouldn't be tossed off by everyone one in the club as she is here, if the movie was as real as it would like to pretend it is, the Ram would be only one in a line of losers vying for her attention. That they are both performers would be what their connection is, not just that he's the only nice guy at the strip club.
Then there's the wrestling scenes, each gut wrenching and harsh. Unlike in boxing movies where there's a man struggling to win, we watch Rocky get turned to hamburger because we want to see that even against the odds, he overcomes, his will, his drive, his heart pushes him on to victory. Here there is no competition, the winner decided beforehand. When we see the Ram cut his own forehead open with a razor, get thrown through a plate glass window, staple gun his own face and a litany of other injuries some occurring outside the ring, we realize that, more than to the roar of the crowd, as he would tell you, the Ram is addicted to pain.
Pain is what Aronofsky is all about as well, but not to himself. If Rourke plays the masochist, Mr. Aronofsky is a sadist. He wants he wants to hurt his performers, he wants to hurt his audience, no one is safe from his machine gun of emotional destruction. This is what he gets off on, not the triumph of will, or someone rising above the mire. It's people at their worst only getting worse. In Requiem of course you end up a an armless whore if you do drugs, in Pi you lobotomize yourself for thinking too much and here the Ram is ready to die play fighting. His detest for everyone on screen including his leads is what sets the movie and director apart from other filmmakers and artists, regular ones find the beauty in the everyday, Aronofsky finds the ugly.
The Masochist works best when it's just Rourke, camera behind him as he moves through his world, he feels so sorry for himself we can't help but join in.