Top Five: Reasons to See The Wrestler

1. In the ’80s, Mickey Rourke was both a successful leading man and a certifiable sex symbol. But his personal life overshadowed his career and by the ’90s Rourke had become a has-been and a punchline. That is, until now. In Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler, Rourke portrays washed up professional wrestler Randy “The Ram” Robinson, who is given one last chance at life and love. Rourke is mesmerizing; he delivers a fun, passionate and poignant performance that sticks with you. This is the comeback of the year.

2. A film about professional wrestling seems like it would be the perfect plot for a Will Ferrell movie. Yet The Wrestler is a powerful, heartbreaking and beautifully crafted drama that takes the audience into a world unlike any other. It is an intense and graphic look at a culture where everyone is clinging to failed dreams.

3. Marisa Tomei plays Pam, a stripper who has captured Randy’s heart. Tomei’s performance is the glue that holds The Wrestler together, providing a sense of wisdom when Randy is completely lost.

4. Guns N’ Roses “Sweet Child o’ Mine” is featured as The Ram’s anthem before his last turn in the ring. Axl Rose provided the song for free because of the film’s low budget. Likewise, Bruce Springsteen provided an original song, “The Wrestler”, for free. The opening line, “Have you ever seen a one trick pony in the field so happy and free?/ If you’ve ever seen a one trick pony then you’ve seen me,” is a testament to the heart and soul of this film.

5. Frankly, The Wrestler is the year’s best film. It might be less fantastical than The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, not as hyped as Slumdog Millionaire, not based on actual events like Frost/Nixon or The Reader and lacking the biopic angle like Milk, but The Wrestler has more passion than any of these films. It is a film not to be missed.

Published: January 29, 2009
The Mount Holyoke News

Tonight’s Movie: You Can Count on Me


This past week I have gone from never hearing a word about You Can Count on Me, a 2000 film starring Mark Ruffalo and Laura Linney, to hearing a lot about You Can Count of Me. I’ve heard so many good things about it that I willingly stopped watching The Wire (which is not an easy thing for anyone to do) and put this movie on top of my Netflix queue. Linney received her first Oscar nomination for her performance, so hopefully it lives up to what I’ve heard.

Review: Milk (2008)


My name is Harvey Milk and I’m here to recruit you.”
Every year there is at least one biopic that seems to be on every person’s radar. Not that that’s a bad thing. This year’s biopic is Milk, directed by Gus Van Sant.

Milk tells the story of San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk. In the 1970s, Milk reinvented himself from a closeted New York City insurance salesman to become the country’s first openly gay politician and the face of the country’s gay rights movement. His life, his political career, and his untimely death have left an unequaled legacy on both gay rights and in American politics.

Harvey Milk is played by Academy Award winner Sean Penn, who once again shows the depth of his talent through this performance. Penn is compelling and never seems as though he is playing a stereotype, which is the greatest risk for an actor playing Milk.

Milk boasts an equally impressive supporting cast. James Franco, Emilie Hirsch, Alison Pill, Joseph Cross, and Diego Luna play Milk’s closest allies. Franco is a silent force as Scott Smith, Milk’s long-suffering partner. But Franco’s quiet yet resonate performance is outshined by Josh Brolin. Brolin’s portrayal of Milk’s fellow city supervisor and eventual assassin, Dan White, is mesmerizing and haunting. Surprisingly, White is a sympathetic villain; his descent into evil is treated fairly by the filmmakers, allowing audiences to draw their own opinions about White.

There is an eerie sensation about Milk. It is the story of a politician who becomes the voice for individual rights while spreading a message of hope and it is a story focused on a gay rights proposition in California. Two stories similar to this played out in the recent election, giving Milk an even more resounding message. In many ways, you are watching a film that is about today as much as it is about the 1970s.

Harvey Milk was a brilliant man and activist. He was funny and flamboyant; tragic and flawed; inspiring and passionate. This film is tells the story of rich and fascinating life by using any method of filmmaking possible to peel off the layers.

By the end of this film, you know Harvey Milk and that is Milk‘s greatest achievement.

Review: Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

Slumdog Millionaire is this year’s movie that has seemingly come out of no where to become a critical darling. It has been nominated for practically every award in existence and has been on ample Top 10 lists. So why the hype? 

Directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting), Slumdog Millionaire is stunningly simple story about friendships, family and love.

Jamal Malik, a former street child from the slums of Mumbai, is a contestant on Kaun Banega Crorepati, the Hindi version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. With the odds stacked against him, Jamal has somehow makes it to the final question and now stands to win 20 million rupees. Naturally, Jamal is accused on cheating and is brought into police custody for an interrogation session that slowly weaves the web of Jamal’s past.

We learn about his childhood in the slums, his relationship with his brother, Salim, and his love for a local street girl, Latika. The events from his childhood provide enough clues for Jamal to know answers to the questions.

Jamal is played by Dev Patel, who is best known for his role on Skins, a British teen drama that I love. Slumdog Millionaire has provided Patel with the breakthrough role of a lifetime, earning him a Screen Actors Guild nomination.

There is a risk with Slumdog Millionaire. As a story about India set in Mumbai, Western audiences are likely to become entralled by the film. Especially after the Mumbai terror attacks last months, audiences will go in expecting this exotic tale about India. But Slumdog Millionaire is not an Indian film.

The movie is a typical Hollywood melodrama aimed at hooking an audience in but it ends with a typical Bollywood dance number in order to remind us that this is a movie about India. In many ways, this could be the movie that finally gives Bollywood a mainstream Hollywood audience. But is this a bad thing? Not really, as long as audiences are able to recognize this.

At the end of the day, Slumdog Millionaire is an intense experience; it will literally have you at the edge of your seat. Simon Beaufoy’s script, Anthony Dod Mantle’s cinematography, Chris Dickens’s editing, and A. R. Rahman’s soundtrack all come together to tell this wonderfully romantic story and simple reminder about the power of the human spirit.

I think Todd McCarthy of Variety sums up the film best when he wrote about the film in September. “As drama and as a look at a country increasingly entering the world spotlight, Slumdog Millionaire is a vital piece of work by an outsider who’s clearly connected with the place.”

It is hard to resist and hard to forget the charm of Slumdog Millionaire.

Updated December 2, 2010

Review: Rachel Getting Married (2008)

Weddings are supposed to be joyous occasions. But weddings are also the times when a family’s past can come back to haunt them. Rachel Getting Married, directed by Jonathan Demme and written by Jenny Lumet, follows a wedding that is festive and celebratory but also painstakingly heartbreaking.

The films focuses on the complicated relationship between sisters Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt) and Kym (Anne Hathaway). After nine months in rehab, Kym has come home for her sister’s wedding and her presence ensures that the past will more present than ever. Bill Irwin, Anne Deavere Smith, and Debra Winger play prominent supporting roles.

Hathaway is playing against type as a tormented drug-addict and she delivers a fine performance that screams Oscar worthy. Yet it is DeWitt’s subtle performance as the long-suffering Rachel that truely shines. There is a complexity to the character of Rachel that is not seen in Kym. Rachel’s feelings, emotion and past are revealed more through simple gestures than Kym’s verbal revelations. Rachel Getting Married might be a vehicle for Hathaway to prove herself as something more than a Disney princess but it is a star-making role for DeWitt.

Using mostly handheld camera shots and naturalistic techniques, Demme captures the essence of a family struggling to come to terms with the past as they start a new beginning. At times Rachel Getting Married reads more like a documentary than a narrative. Yet for the viewer, there is an odd ghostly presence to the film; you find yourself peering in on this family’s past and discovering their secrets.

This is Demme’s best film since The Silence of the Lambs. The performances of Hathaway and DeWitt and the stellar script by Lumet make Rachel Getting Married a film not to be missed.

Updated November 24, 2010