Ebert talks about ‘The Wrestler’

thewrestler.jpgMickey Rourke is back. The legendary tough guy in 1980s movies like “9½ Weeks,” “Barfly” and “Year of the Dragon” has never been away. He’s been working steadily, with 16 movies just since 2000 — but his title role in “The Wrestler” is arguably his best career performance and could win him an Oscar nomination. The film, playing here at the 33rd Toronto Film Festival, arrived after winning the grand prize at Venice, and is drawing turn-away crowds. It came to Toronto without a distributor, but was snatched up for $4.5 million by Fox Searchlight.

Rourke plays Randy “The Ram” Robinson, a pro wrestling superstar in the 1980s, now reduced to shabby local clubs and rented school gyms where the dressing room is a children’s classroom. He won’t retire. He can’t. His best friend is a lap dancer (Marisa Tomei) who he has to pay for her time. He still puts on a good show, although his body is taped together. I know — pro wrestling is scripted. But the scripted stuff they do is brutal. Say you get thrown over the ropes and land on the floor. It’s in the script, but how would that feel?

The film is also a comeback of sorts for gifted director Darren Aronofsky, whose “The Fountain” (2006) was a box office and critical bomb. That film was a confusing exercise in visual fantasy. “The Wrestler” is meat-and-potatoes filmmaking, anchored by a strong story and sharply defined characters. Rourke, who has done pro boxing, looks like he does the wrestling falls himself. If he does not, I don’t want to know. When a guy does things for real, people assume “special effects.” But with Rourke, you just never know.

Aronofsky and Rourke talk about ‘The Wrestler’

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