If anything could be further from my experience watching Revolutionary Road, it would be my experience watching Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler.
On all accounts, it was simply a stunning film.
Authentic. Gritty. Realistic. Subtle. Poignant.
Authenicity. This is true on two counts. First, they get absolutely every single detail about the world completely right. More than that, they seem to tell and evolve the story THROUGH those details. It’s filmmaking at its finest. As for Mickey Rourke, it would seem cheesy to say a cliche like he IS Randy “The Ram”, but never is it more applicable. Rourke simply exists as Randy. It’s a perfect combination of his acting abilities, look, well-written character, and the reality of off-screen persona. What’s most telling is I never had to even think about it. It wasn’t a showy performance. I never had to stop and think “oooh, he’s good!”. I could simply watch this character go about his life. Just Brilliant.
Gritty. Going docu-style can backfire on you real quick. It’s easy for a scene to becomes sloppy. Tension can slip. The pace suffers. You can lose focus. But NOT for Aronofsky. You’d have to describe his previous films’ style as extremely focused and artistic. His foray into “realistic” style filmmaking is so packed with content and commentary that it succeeds across the board. And the film’s infamous violent match is so visceral. It edges on overkill, but the gritty docu-style grounds it in reality (not to mention that this stuff actually happens like this).
Subtle. The film is remarkably clear, but it does so much of its communication non-verbally that’s it’s just so damn refreshing (especially after seeing the THIS IS WHAT I THINK AND I’M TELLING YOU Revolutionary Road).
Poignant. The Wrestler manages do something I find to be the most remarkable feat in filmmaking. It manages to be at once both an intense, honest criticism of the sport and yet a total love letter to it at the same time. There’s a passion for the wonderful pageantry on display and it really respects the fans’ love of it. There’s an entire cadance to that world and in order to show the dark underbelly (the steroids, the pay, the physical punishment), they first prove that you have to love it for it all to even make sense. It’s just powerful.
All these qualities are what allows the Ram’s tale to be so heartbreaking and endearing.
And it’s the reason it’s one of my favorite films of the year.