Monday, January 19, 2009

3 For 3.

Actually, 4, if you count Revolutionary Road, which we saw a week or two ago.

J and I saw The Wrestler last night. If you're planning to see The Wrestler and you're as neurotic as I am about not hearing anything positive or negative about a film before you see it, stop reading this now.

I hate being disappointed by a movie. It's like rejection; it's hard to shake. I don't read reviews before I see movies but often will read them afterwords to check my impressions against writers whose opinions I admire (or find interesting, anyway), so I read some reviews of The Wrestler this morning and realized that all the fuss really was about Mickey Rourke and not so much the film itself. Mickey Rourke is good in it, but he's so disfigured that it's hard to look at him after a while, and a lot of the film -- steroid monsters in seriously ugly clothes beating the shit out of each other -- is hard to look at, which I'm sure is intentional. But I'm not sure what it adds up to.

The story is full of the worst eye-roll inducing cliches, which can work for me if there's something to grab onto, but this movie just hits the marks -- big sweet lug who's not very bright but his heart is in the right place, stripper with a heart of gold who falls in love with a customer, daughter who hates her father because he was never there for her -- without giving the characters' lives any of the depth and complexity that would let you believe the big sentimental moments.

On the way home, J and I were talking about the world of professional wrestling, which neither of us really understands, and J said something along the lines of "We're supposed to feel sorry for these guys?" I think that sums up my reaction to the movie. The central character was not sympathetic and the supporting characters were not credible.

If you're in love with the "resurrection of Mickey Rourke" narrative that the marketing of The Wrestler is pushing, you'll probably like this movie more than I did. For me, morbid fascination only went so far.

Revolutionary Road wasn't as bad, but it fell into all the pitfalls of a film adapted from a novel. It feels schematic and jumpy, like they went through the book and highlighted all the scenes they wanted to include in the movie. The setup of the relationship and marriage is way too quick for me to care later (not enough later is my point) when everything goes sour.

I think what I hate most about my disappointment in films like these is that they have spent a shitload of money and time and creative energy making a film yet they didn't address basic, solvable problems in the writing. They didn't do their work, and I feel cheated.