Why The Wrestler is Best Picture Material...
Recently, my buddy said this regarding my blogpost about Slumdog Millionaire...
“Before you saw the Wrestler, you were all for this movie.
Mickey Rourke was a son of a b*#$! in the Wrestler, he did steroids, screwed his daughter over by banging some skank in a bathroom, and WORST of all, he didn't go for Marissa Tomei. He deserved that heart attack. Jamal was a cool dude, and he had a heart, he fell in love.”
Here is the problem: Many people consider Slumdog Millionaire a gripping, exciting non-stop action movie, but no one wants to consider what the hell its saying/asking. The kid who wrote the above quote made me realize Crash is an extremely overrated movie. Well, the same thing is happening with Crash as with Slumdog - all style and no substance. To expalin: I loved Crash the first time I saw it, and from what I recall my friend did too. Though after I thought about it - with the help of my friend’s reasoning - I realized the movie wasn’t saying anything profound (unlike e.g. - Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?, Do the Right Thing, The Color Purple, American History X). A lot of people love Crash for its portrayal of racial problems in modern society. But I beg the differ, I think its because the movie is part of the growing movement of interlinked stories that connect in the end (a movement I personally love, just not in this instance). Hence, Crash is a movie that is aesthetically good, but thematically bad.
Regarding Slumdog, I understand Jamal followed his heart and fell in love, but if people are only going to observe the film from an outside perspective rather than looking into the message then I am nervous for any and all philosophical insight expressed within future cinema. This in fact allows me to bring up my new favorite quote from Mike Leigh’s Naked (emphasizing the italicized)...it is a perfect description of how people seem to regard all aspects of cultural activity.
“Was I bored? No, I wasn't fuckin' bored. I'm never bored. That's the trouble with everybody - you're all so bored. You've had nature explained to you and you're bored with it, you've had the living body explained to you and you're bored with it, you've had the universe explained to you and you're bored with it, so now you want cheap thrills and plenty of them, and it doesn't matter how tawdry or vacuous they are as long as it's new, as long as it flashes and fuckin' bleeps in forty fuckin' different colors. So whatever else you can say about me, I'm not fuckin' bored.”
That description sums of my attitude of Slumdog Millionaire, forty fucking different bleeping colors, nothing more, nothing less.
Alright, on with The Wrestler, the best movie of the year. From the opening credits I knew that I was viewing cinematic perfection. From the very beginning Aronovsky plays with our emotions - the 80’s metal playing over cheesy credits established a positive view that is quickly destroyed within the first ten minutes. The Ram has a dead end job with a shitty boss, has become estranged from his daughter, is in love with a stripper-mother and has a body that is moments away from complete break down.
So what does he do after his heart attack? Does he try and repair the relationship with his daughter? Does he try to find a job with a better future? Does he choose Marisa Tomei in the end? No, because his love is with wrestling. The time for rebuilding broken bridges or establishing new ones has come and gone.
Even if he were to try and repair them it would have been out of selfish motives. His daughter is not five or ten years old, she is twenty. The pain of dealing with the absence of her father has clearly been something she’s come to terms with. If you pay close enough attention, she doesn’t even ask what happened when he didn’t show up, she just assumed he ditched her. Correctly yes, but it distinguishes the extremely delicate nature of her capability for forgiveness. From the little about we learn about The Ram its understood that he has not had the best of luck with women (he's alone and seems to have been for awhile). As for work, he has yet to find a job that gives him fulfillment and satisfaction. When he is “enjoying” himself at the super market its obviously in bad faith rather than genuine contentment. The Ram quickly understands that he is good at one thing and one thing only, that he loves to do one thing and one thing only and that is wrestle.
Not many people are willing to live in a trailer, below the poverty line, barely making ends reach. Most would try and find security through a nice pension and quality benefits after their golden age of youth (or in the Ram’s case golden age of wrestling). The Ram does not sacrifice his dreams and even goes so far as to die for them. It is NOT about the fame, it is NOT about the fortune, it is about genuine love and dedication. The absurdity is that its wrestling, but such an absurdity is also the beauty. It is not even closely considered an honorable profession, and yet Aronovsky can somehow portray all of the wrestlers within the film with immense amount of depth and substance. To strive for becoming a professional musician, director, painter, actor or whatever is something that provides the possibility of being one day blessed with reward and honor. But The Ram, who ignores the stares and confusion of the masses, goes beyond the typical and embraces his absurd passion without humility or reservation.
So in the end, are you really going to tell me that Jamal is a better person for falling in love with a beautiful girl? Does that make him stronger? I think the stronger man is the one who can disregard such trivialities and rather be willing to sacrifice his life for doing what he loves. I will even declare that The Ram is one of the most heroic characters of cinema. After all, what takes more courage - to pursue a gorgeous Marissa Tomei/your deeply damaged daughter, understanding the massively negative consequences let alone the obscenely selfish agenda? Or to turn away from those potential modes of happiness and into a life of solitude which is rather dedicated wholeheartedly towards passion?