I recently posted my top 10 list of the year... But now I'll have to amend that as I finally caught Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler. I have a favorite film of that year.
The Wrestler is a movie that has been getting a good deal of critical attention, much of it directed towards the performance of Mickey Rourke in the titular role. He has a great shot at a Oscar, and it is truly much deserved.
I also really admired Mr. Aronofsky's boldness in his storytelling. He keeps things very linear and simple, allowing the drama to unfold and the actor's performances to keep the tension and emotions flowing. It's reminiscent of the best of work by a director like Samuel Fuller. There's not a lot of BS camera and editing flashery to be found (Danny Boyle & David Fincher guilty as charged) and the film isn't as half as manipulative as their films pretended not to be. It's mostly hand-held using serviceable film stock (16mm) to capture it's moments.
Even though there aren't lush vistas and visuals ...the best money and high tech computer wizardry could buy these days seemingly in everything... there's a beauty found in this movie that no others could ever match. You'll find an honesty and integrity to it's story and it's characters and a real feeling of heartache and pain for the things Mr. Rourke puts himself through to find some sort of redemption. And it's not the typical Hollywood movie idea of redemption. What you'll find here are equal parts bloody, brutal, frustrating and beautiful.
You'll also get a sense that the writer and the director had a real passion for the subject, no doubt growing up in the 80's when Wrestling was at it's most populist... They painstakingly created a very real world out of respect for these guys, and you walk away feeling like they got it absolutely right. There are many parallels to has-been actors or those who's stars have fallen simply because of age. That scene where Mr. Rourke is forced to hawk his merchandise for cash at some sad looking and barely attended convention. Just, wow. I totally felt that character's sadness run sharp through me having watched some of my favorite actors and filmmakers do the very same thing at some past conventions I've been to.
When it's characters reminisce and bond about the passing years and the decades that have brought them some of the pain they're paying for now, they each agree that "The 90's Fucking sucked"... And given the decline in film and real & honest sense of storytelling since the 80s, I can wholeheartedly agree.