Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. USA/France, 2008. Wild Bunch, Protozoa Pictures, Saturn Films, Top Rope. Screenplay by Robert D. Siegel. Cinematography by Maryse Alberti. Produced by Darren Aronofsky, Scott Franklin. Music by Clint Mansell. Production Design by Tim Grimes. Costume Design by Amy Westcott. Film Editing by Andrew Weisblum. Academy Awards 2008. Golden Globe Awards 2008. Toronto International Film Festival 2008.
It’s not easy being a has-been, particularly when you still have the drive but you find the energy harder to muster. Former wrestling champion Mickey Rourke is aging and no longer the popular star he once was, his body suffering from years of abuse and his personal life spotted with loneliness. The only relief he gets after a day spent earning a pittance on the ropes to a handful of fans is the time spent with a stripper (Marisa Tomei) with whom he feels a personal connection. The real change in his life happens when a heart attack and subsequent bypass keep him from his competitive sport altogether, encouraging him to put more effort into matters that he has ignored for too long: reuniting with his estranged daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) and possibly making something real of his relationship with Tomei. Despite a bland script that takes no unpredictable turns, this one has a lot going for it: Darren Aronofsky creates a ripping atmosphere that always seems ready to jump off the screen, and the performances he gets out of the two leads are unforgettable. Rourke makes a fantastic comeback to the big leagues with a performance that turns from bravado to emotional vulnerability with equal ease, making not only a character but an icon out of the role. Tomei is equally remarkable, taking a stock image (movie stripper) and giving it a remarkable amount of gravity; just watch her face when she looks around the club where she works and realizes how much she hates her life. Wood doesn’t fare as well, constantly believing that grabbing her hair while yelling convinces us that she really means what she says, but Rourke is always acting such wondrous circles around her that it doesn’t matter.