What a memorable performance by Mickey Rourke as a crumbling, near-wreck of a man, yet very much determined to preserve some semblance of dignity by way of the only life he knows. This is a demanding, courageous, and accessible performance, and while I haven't seen Milk, one can't help but feel Rourke was hard done by on Oscar night. A superb turn by Marisa Tomei as well: the desperation in her eyes as the ageing stripper eyes the club floor after a series of rejections by patrons who presumably want younger flesh, is great acting at its wounding best.
The film itself spans a few months in the life of a professional wrestler, now two decades past his sell-by date and struggling to make ends meet. Director Darren Aronofsky does well to capture both the sheer weirdness of professional wrestling. and the love affair its practitioners have for what can only be called a way of life. His strip club too is not the essentially complicit representation that is par for the Hollywood course, but a far more precarious world, unsettling to the viewer -- especially when Tomei's character is seen by day, out of her element as it were (Rourke is similarly discomfited, and singularly incapable of coming up with a simple compliment when he sees her away from the club). It is this refusal to let the audience feel at ease that makes The Wrestler , in a sense, a rebuke to "safer" films, for, in representing the wrestling world (or rather, the underbelly of even the wrestling world), Aronofsky is truly in a "marginal" realm: not the hip marginality of the exotic and edgy "other", but one so liminal all notions of cool and good taste appear foreign to it.