Last night after G Lo and part of So. Park I switched over and caught Mickey Rourke on Jimmy Kimmel and I found myself smiling throughout the whole interview. I grew up with Mickey Rourke. One of my first girlfriends brought over a video and said we need to watch this. It was "9 1/2 Weeks" and for the next few girlfriends after that one it was required viewing. Then came "Angel Heart" and "Barfly." I then looked back at his earlier work and saw how this bad ass developed. "The Wrestler" his latest film is lyrical.
Rourke is in top physical form for a man who lived the wild life he did and is well into his 50s. He plays a pro-wrestler, 20 years past his prime. He lives in a trailer, works in an ACME market, uses a hearing aid, and puts on wrestling shows at Veterans of Foreign Wars halls. On his days off he lusts after a stripper played by the incredibly fine Marisa Tomei. After a particularly bloody and violent match, he has a heart attack which makes him see his mortality and forces him to reach out to his estranged daughter, who is rightfully very angry with daddy.
The film begins by shooting Rourke's character Randy 'The Ram' Robinson from an over the shoulder shot, giving it an almost documentary feel. The trick is used throughout the film to keep us at arms length from this caricature of man. Before we know it the film eases into a full on family drama / love story with Rourke as our flawless guide. The Ram can be a bit of 'tard but it is part of his charm as well as his weakness. All along the feelings that The Ram has to change, he deserves better, he has paid for his mistakes, he needs to be forgiven, he needs real love now are presented to us. We don't know his fate. He could just as easily walk off into the sunset with his daughter and stripper girlfriend, than crash his van and die while driving to one last wrestling match. We are cheering for him but know life is not always easy. Every dog has his day, and this dog had his days.
Rourke is doing the media rounds now that he won a Golden Globe, and I really hope he wins the Oscar. He is the type of movie star that are fewer these days. He has real talent, not just box office draw.
A week before I saw "The Wrestler" I saw a somewhat similar movie that is just as good "Gran Torino." Directed and starring another true movie star Clint Eastwood, "Gran Torino" is a slice of old Hollywood. I don't think I need to state how much I like Eastwood's Westerns and his directing. I believe I've mentioned his works here before.
When we hear Eastwood's character spew out his racial slurs, you don't know if its cute because he is an old man whose generation will all soon be gone or if its just plain ole angry white man crap. These other blog reviews say pretty much what I feel and you should check them out for a summary of what the film is about if you don't. I want focus on how Eastwood's film is similar to "The Wrestler."
Both films show the end of a man's life and the end of an era. The world changes and for the characters in both films the present and future looks like alien territory. When The Ram says "The 90's sucked" and when Eastwood realizes he has more in common with Hmong immigrants, with their old school ways, than with his own kids, both men signal that they are done living and are only surviving. They don't understand the new. They know they need to reinvent themselves but don't know how, or won't be allowed to change, or lack the energy to change. Much like in The Atlantic's "The End of White America?" by Hua Hsu (reviewed below) these white men are stuck in a moment where they are not on top and none of us know what will happen with them.
The flawed heroes of both films are only flawed because of the times we are living in. In an earlier era they would be seen just as heroes living out the last days of glorious lives. Today with our PC eyes and ears, we can see how change is good and that being a dick gets you nowhere fast.
I loved both films and plan on watching them both again and maybe again and again. They are good stories, full of rich characters, good acting and make me think that there is hope for us all. We can all change, we can break cycles within ourselves, even if we can't change the world and we can go out balls to the wall and do some good for the fans or just our neighbors. I don't want to spoil either film, so if you get it good. If not go see them.