AND HE CARRIES THE REMINDERS OF EVERY GLOVE THAT LAID HIM DOWN OR CUT HIM, 'TIL HE CRIED OUT IN HIS ANGER AND HIS SHAME: It helps to have a SAG member in the family, and especially one who travels with screeners. So thank you, Molly, for bringing The Wrestler east on this trip.
So here's the thing: Mickey Rourke? Pretty much everything you heard -- a charm and decency one can't fake, and obvious and moving parallels to his real-life woes. He does some really nice things with what he's given, and the film does an exceptional job of capturing life at the bottom of the professional wrestling world. The physical universe of this film feels deeply authentic.
What Rourke's given, unfortunately, is a thuddingly obvious melodrama, with anvil-laden speeches that make sure you never miss the point. I mean, really, did he need to say to his estranged daughter, “Now I’m an old, broken-down piece of meat, and I’m alone and I deserve to be alone. I just don’t want you to hate me"? This film doesn't seem to have learned the difference of show v. tell. It's got all the subtlety of being punctured by a staple gun.
That said, Rourke's charisma does carry you a pretty long way through this, and there are little moments -- at a deli counter, by the boardwalk, playing a twenty-year-old Nintendo wrestling game in which he appears -- that do get to you. So lower your expectations, and enjoy the Rourke.