Let’s get this out of the way right at the beginning: Mickey Rourke is ugly. There, now you’ve read the concept that 90 percent of critics will base their entire review around. If you are old enough to remember when Rourke was a Hollywood pretty boy with a bright future ahead of him, then you don’t need to be reminded why his face now looks like he shaves with a cheese grater.
If you are part of the demographic that crowds American Legions and dingy high school gyms on Saturday afternoons to watch big dudes beat the shit out of bigger dudes in the squared circle, however, then your life probably has a lot in common with the sad sack wrestler played by Rourke in this creatively titled film. Chances are you too drive a van with a muscular plastic action figure taped to the dash, find conversation at the local strip club to be intellectually stimulating, and probably also have a chemical dependency that prevents you from working at anything other than the hottest and noisiest of jobs.
In fact, what are you even doing reading this review? Shouldn’t you be shotgunning a Miller Light with the jailbait you picked up last night after you won the local pie-eating contest, or explaining to your buddies why the 80’s were so much better than the 90’s? Didn’t it just blow your mind when Rourke said EXACTLY THE SAME THING while drinking in a bar at noon with the 40 year old single mom he picked up at the peelers? It’s almost as if that old hippie you buy your acid from was right and there are indeed little cameras that follow you around wherever you go.
Of course, there are advantages to being part of The Wrestler’s intended audience. For one thing, you were most likely unaffected by the recent stock market crash, since your retirement plan consists primarily of a pocket full of lottery scratch cards. You also probably don’t have to worry about the cost of health insurance, thanks to the fact that you’ve already sold most of your major organs and about half the plasma in your body – what’s left to get sick? Finally, as with Rourke’s charmingly estranged daughter, chances are your family hates you too much to seek out child support, leaving you free and clear to spread your booze-soaked seed across the country.
If any of the above strikes a chord then you need to run, not walk to a local screening of The Wrestler and revel in the hauntingly tedious examination of your day to day life. It’s almost unbelievable that director Darren Aronofsky abandoned his tool chest of random edits and non-linear plot devices, but his decision to keep the camera steadily focused on Rourke’s bleach blonde himbo character is reminiscent of watching a piece of meat slowly rot in the sun over a period of days – dull, smelly and about as inspired as an art school film major’s final project.
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