Labeling The Wrestler a "comeback" or "a return to form," as some will undoubtedly do, would be to suggest that Darren Aronofsky's career to date has produced anything that really demands reconsideration, save perhaps the delusional numbskullery of The Fountain, and only then under the influence of strong psychotropics. He's crafted cruelly effective moments -- images that stick hard and wane only over the long run -- in both Pi and Requiem for a Dream, but my overall sense of his films thus far has been of film-school hypermasculinity run amok.
It may sound paradoxical to suggest that Aronofsky's not a terrible filmmaker even though he's made a series of unnecessarily brutal, intellectually lacking movies, but this is about exactly where he leaves off: visually gifted, intensely visceral, and with about the most lame-brained narrative and aesthetic instincts this side of Guy Ritchie. One need only spend a few minutes with The Fountain to see the effects of cinematic ego gone wild; one need spend even less with the weary, credibly inhabited The Wrestler to see what happens when unbridled creativity gets productively boxed in by a few well-considered limitations.
Click here to read the rest of Jeff Reichert's review of The Wrestler.
And earlier: Adam Nayman on The Wrestler