By ELIOT HAGEN
Darren Aronofsky is doubtlessly one of the most talented filmmakers still active today. With stellar titles like “Pi” and “Requiem for a Dream” that earned him world acclaim, the bar is set pretty high. Though his third movie, “The Fountain,” was met with less than spectacular reviews, his newest endeavor, “The Wrestler,” is a masterpiece. The film has only been screened a handful of times at film festivals around the world, winning the Golden Lion in Venice and most recently closing the 46th annual New York Film Festival.
In an Oscar-worthy performance that trumps anything he has done in the past, Mickey Rourke plays aging wrestler Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson nearing the end of both his career and his life. Rourke, the focus of the entire film, receives excellent support from Marisa Tomei as a stripper named Cassidy and Evan Rachel Wood as his daughter with whom he’s lost touch. Both actresses perform their parts excellently, though in scenes with Rourke they are often eclipsed by his performance.
The film is intensely raw and honest, with Aronofsky flexing his documentary muscles in many of the wrestling scenes. The cinematography, helmed by Maryse Alberti instead of Aronofsky’s usual Matthew Libatique, uses plenty of handheld camera but not to the point of jarring the viewer. This is especially effective during long tracking shots and the wrestling matches. There are also static long shots reminiscent of the boardwalk scenes in “Requiem for a Dream.”
The absence of some Aronofsky staples might make some fans anxious, but rest assured that the film is still magnificent. You’ll recognize character actor Mark Margolis, who has been in every one of Aronofsky’s films, and Clint Mansell, who did the music—though it’s far less predominant and integral than the soundtracks for “Requiem” and “Fountain.”
If you enjoyed any of Aronofsky’s work, you must see this film. It’s a logical progression and evolution of his talents as a director, completely up to the high standard he set for himself in his previous three works. “The Wrestler” will see commercial release on Dec. 19th and anyone with any interest in film owes it to themself to see it as soon as the opportunity presents itself.