I skipped tonight's screening of the much-anticipated Twilight (which, judging by the trailers, looks terrible; sorry!) in order to catch a screening of The Wrestler, in which Mickey Rourke makes a triumphant comeback as Randy "The Ram" Robinson, an aging pro wrestler on the indie circuit whose life fell apart long ago - and whose body is now following suit.
Darren Aronofsky, who directed The Wrestler, has set aside all the extreme style he brought to Pi and Requiem For a Dream, as well as the twisting narrative of The Fountain, in order to tell a straightforward, linear story anchored by two sensational performances.
Just as crucial to the success of the film is Marisa Tomei as a single mother who moonlights as a stripper and is the closest thing to a romantic partner as The Ram has in his life. Tomei is fantastic in the part, bringing poignancy, dignity and emotional complexity to a role that could have easily come off as a cliche.
But this is Rourke's show through and through - the kind of pairing of actor and role so ideal, it usually comes along only once in a career. Despite the gaudy brutishness of his profession, The Ram is something of a teddy bear - a good-hearted, achingly lonely man scrambling to fill the void that has consumed his life now that he's no longer a wrestling superstar. And despite Rourke's tough-guy screen persona, he's at his best when playing gentle, misunderstood giants.
I'll be writing more about The Wrestler closer to its release (it's not scheduled to open in South Florida until Jan. 16). Tomorrow I'm interviewing Aronofsky and Tomei, who are in town and showed up at tonight's screening at the Regal South Beach to do a Q&A with the audience after the film. Below is a crappy picture I took with my cellphone, but they're so tiny in it the photo is useless.
Aronofsky said it was cool to be showing the movie on Lincoln Road, since he first met with Rourke to discuss the role at an Italian restaurant across the street. He said he was drawn to Robert D. Siegel's screenplay because unlike boxers, "no one's ever told a story about a wrestler and no one's seen it before."
The filmmaker also said he purposely shot the film in a plain, near-documentary style because "I wanted to do something very different than I had done before. You have to change and reinvent yourself and keep growing."
Aronofsky also said that Rourke wished he could have been there tonight and "sends his love to everyone in Miami," but that he was stuck in New York doing interviews for the film. So what are we, chopped liver? I hope I get some phone time with him for my story.
Tuesday Nov. 18
The Wrestler (2008)