Darren Aronofsky is far and away one of the greatest directors of the young American wave. In 1998 he took a guerrilla crew through New York City and took the Independent film world by storm with his directorial debut, Pi, a Sci-fi thriller about...math. His follow up was nothing short of a genuine masterpiece. Requiem for a Dream showed a skill for the technical side of film making that is truly first class, and he had the vision of a born story teller. Well, Aronofsky is back ten years after his debut with his fourth feature, The Wrestler, this is the kind of film that comes along only a couple of times a year.
Although it is guised as a wrestling film, it is only such as much as Scorsese's Raging Bull or Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby were boxing films. There is plenty of in the ring action going on here, to be sure, but it is not Rocky VII; because, unlike the Rocky franchise (which I mean starting with Rocky II) the heart of this film is not found in the ring, but outside. Wrestling is what Randy "The Ram" Robinson does, and in many ways, it is who he is; it does not, however, define his entirety.
Randy has an estranged daughter, beautifully portrayed by the angelic Evan Rachel Woods, and a stripper would-be girlfriend played masterfully by Oscar-winner Marisa Tomei. The drama of the film revolves around Randy's incapability of being an everyday, normal human being. Coupled with an ailment that may not allow him to wrestle forever.
The Wrestler may very well be the best film of 2008, and Mickey Rourke's performance is one of the best of the decade. It is nothing short of a force of nature. He may not win an Oscar for the role, though he should; but, he will undoubtedly be nominated for it. And, I hope that he wins.