The Wrestler directed by Darren Aronofsky
Believe the hype. Mickey Rourke plays aging wrestler Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson who refuses to give up the game even though some serious medical conditions combined with the punishing brutality of the ring suggest that he should pick a new career path. In the wrong hands this could have been a melodramatic mess. Kudos to Darren Aronofsky for playing it downbeat, thoughtful, and introspective. It’s grainy and the quietude is powerful. What do you do when your dream is dying? Heavy stuff man. Great job by Rourke as well. He doesn’t ham it up and doesn’t chew the scenery. Plus the first scene where he serves up deli slices at the grocery store is one of the great comedy scenes of the year. Moments of levity, moments of sincerity, and moments of wrestle-mania mania break up the bleakness at all the right moments. Sure there are a couple of cheesy moments. The over emo blowout with the “I hate you, you were never there for me, get out of my life,” daughter and the “I’m a stripper, you’re a customer, I can’t do this, it’s not right,” love interest are a little cringe-inducing. But those moments are few and far between and those characters have some great scenes of their own to counterbalance the schmaltz. One of the movies of the year.
Revolutionary Road by Sam Mendes
Newsflash. The 50s weren’t all Happy Days and Jan and Dean moments. If this is news to you, you’ll love this film, think it deep and powerful. If you already had a clue to the creeping malaise infesting suburbia and its denizens, then you will like this film, but find a lot of clichéd or “I’ve already seen this" moments. Snark aside, this is a really good film. Leo and Kate play a couple with artistic dreams, but settle down into a Mad Men-like relationship. She’s going quietly insane in the burbs and he’s unwilling to make changes. The film gets really interesting when they hatch a plan to chuck it all, move to Paris and live out there dreams. This ½ hour section in the movie is great and adds a unique dimension to the story and to this story that we’ve all seen before. I won’t play spoiler too much, but the plan doesn’t come to fruition, and all the obstacles in their way, that subsume the last 1/3 of the film, are all the 50s clichés piling up toward a tragic end. Great final scene though, strangely reminiscent of Harold & Maude. And I’ll take my hat off to Leo, he was great. I’ve never felt all that strongly about him either way, but he was fantastic. At the end of the day, this is a good movie. It looks great, evokes a mood, but it could have been a bit more. As a side note, I think Kate Winslet's lips are a bit out of control. They’re kind of a character in their own right. Distracting.