NYFF: The Wrestler

By robbiefreeling | REVERSEBLOG: the reverse shot blog October 13, 2008 at 2:51AM

NYFF: The Wrestler
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“You oughta see The Passion of the Christ,” says the burned-out fortysomething stripper to the fiftysomething broken-down professional wrestler, who agrees that maybe he should, noting that its subject “sounds like one tough dude.” Kinda sorta like him, right? Then she tells him that, with his long hair, he kinda sorta looks like Jesus himself.

This scene is one of several in Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler—which won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and has the prestigious closing-night slot at the New York Film Festival—in which screenwriter Robert D. Siegel feels compelled to lay his thematic cards on the table. See also the bit where Mickey Rourke’s character, a faded Hulk Hogan manqué named Randy “The Ram” Robinson, who supplements his stock job at a Jersey department store with increasingly grueling appearances on the independent grappling circuit (and who supplements his impressive daily training regimen with illegally procured pharmaceuticals), likens himself to a piece of meat.

The dialogue in these scenes is so blunt as to be almost laughable, and given that Siegel’s only previous writing credit is on The Onion Movie—which, if nothing else, gave us the enduring image of Steven Segal as “Cock Puncher”—one might suspect that The Wrestler’s inventory of sports-melodrama clichés isn’t entirely on the level. But even if this is the case, nobody told Darren Aronofsky, about whose filmography a lot could be said (or furiously scribbled) but in the interest of saving space and venom, let’s leave it at this: he’s not exactly known for his sense of humor.

Click here to read the rest of Adam Nayman's review of The Wrestler.