Sunday, April 26, 2009


myles gave me a deadline for this review of THE WRESTLER. we agreed that i would have something posted, even if unpolished, for our three person audience by sunday evening. i watched THE WRESTLER on friday afternoon, and i've spent the whole weekend since trying to digest it, trying to make something simple enough of it to write about in sentences and, Lord willing, paragraphs. maybe it's the closet english teacher in me that wants to whittle down something grandiose, like a film or a novel or an entire genre (by the way, i hate the concept of genres), into tiny bite-size morsels, even though my own experience of each of these may exceed sensation or language or interpretive capacity. sometimes art utterly melts me.

with myles' deadline in sight, and still trying to whittle down THE WRESTLER into something manageable and neat, flannery o'connor put me in my place. sitting here reading her essay "The Nature and Aim of Fiction," from the book Mystery and Manners, i came across the following paragraph:

People have a habit of saying, "What is the theme of your story?" and they expect you to give them a statement: "The theme of my story is the economic pressure of the machine on the middle class" - or some such absurdity. And when they've got a statement like that, they go off happy and feel it is no longer necessary to read the story. 

the last thing i want is to give any reader or friend any possible reason not to watch THE WRESTLER. however, i realized upon reading the paragraph above that i've been flipping through a small stack of absurd themes from the film. here's a few that i found myself entertaining:

THE WRESTLER is about . . . . 
. . . . . one man's quest and struggle with identity.
. . . . . where we find true love and what we do with it.
. . . . . two people who depend on bodies that no longer work for them.
. . . . . making peace with our past in the present to ensure the future. (that really sounds absurd).
. . . . . the horrors of loneliness and where it takes us.
. . . . . staple guns and heart attacks are no match for a daughter's forgiveness.
. . . . . man's need for the Kingdom of God. (christians love to force this into everything, and i'm a christian, so i force it into everything)

obviously, the absurdities do not work. and i have no fast and easy word for THE WRESTLER. instead, i will just tell you this. 

my friend ryan came over friday afternoon to watch THE WRESTLER. we borrowed the dvd from ben and joy. we popped upon a couple of pabst blue ribbons. my dvd player pooped out on us at the only moment in the film that felt slightly climatic. we had to switch over to the laptop and crane our necks in to watch the widescreen picture on my small monitor. then, suddenly, without warning, the film just ends. action, action, action, dialogue, speech, action, action, action, black screen. ryan and i just sit there. we do not move or speak for a long time. we listen to bruce springsteen sing. then we look at each other and say, "well, that was weird." and then we joke about the awkwardness of the film and how neither of us know what to do with anything we have just seen. ryan leaves. i return the dvd back to ben. i feel a little lost, kinda up in the air, completely unsure what to make of this film or its messages or anything other than the brilliance of the performances.

later latonya and i sit down for desserts and coffee. i tell her that ryan and i watched the film. she asks what it's about. i try to give her a few whittled down morsels, but i just end up telling her the entire film from start to finish. and then right when i get to the last scene, as i'm telling her that he says this and then she says this but then he says this and there, at that moment i nearly broke down. the whole thing flooded over me, and i felt the immensity of the film's sadness and beauty. i have not stopped thinking about it since.

i cannot tell you what the film is about. if anything, it explores a wrestler. a man. a father. a needer of friends. and it also explores a stripper. a woman. a mother. a needer of friends. and again it explores a daughter. a young woman. an angry heart. a hurt heart. and it explores the collision of people in a brief, pivotal stage of their existence and identities.

and it's sad. and it's beautiful. as real life, which is never easily whittled down into themes or morsels, so often is in our brief, pivotal stages of deep, deep need.  


myleswerntz said...

it's true: to whittle this down to morsels is to destroy it. You can't capture the silent sighs of Mickey Rourke as he unwinds from a fight, or as he speaks to the crowd. Snippets don't capture this.

I need to watch it again.

the hamster said...

we did watch it again last night. well, the wife watched it for the first time: me, for the second.

rourke does have all these little groans and sighs that make him more authentic. when he drops his daughter off, you can here him murmur "wow" a few times barely under his breath. latonya did her sweet face and said, "that man is in love with the girl, poor thing." the rourke will make you feel it.

i think i love this film.

joy langford said...

i like your review. and i think that's all i have to say about that. thanks, kevin. good words.

Anonymous said...

Seen this: