Saturday, February 21, 2009

Best Lead Performance (Male), 2008

Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler (210 points/28 votes)

“Much of the “comeback” hype that has surrounded Mickey Rourke’s performance in The Wrestler has focused on his Rourke’s “wilderness years”- the period of lazy performances in long-forgotten dreck that followed his much-ballyhooed fall from grace. To hear the way these folks tell it, you’d think that Rourke had been holed up in an apartment playing with his dogs and drinking Mad Dog straight from the bottle ever since his abortive attempt at a boxing career came to an end. But look closer and you’ll see that, when it comes to Rourke’s resurrection as a performer of note, the writing’s been on the wall for some time now. The former leading man began taking supporting roles roughly a decade ago, first in films made by old friends (Francis Ford Coppola’s The Rainmaker), and later by young turks who fondly remembered his glory days. In the process, he’s become one of Hollywood’s most interesting character actors. It’s hard to imagine anyone else taking that one-scene role in The Pledge and making it sing quite the way Rourke did. Hell, Spun was damn near unwatchable but for Rourke’s presence. By the time he ran away with Sin City as Frank Miller’s gentle giant Marv, it was clear that Rourke was once again ready for prime time.

“More than just about any other movie made this year, The Wrestler is unimaginable with its leading man. The film is such a perfect combination of actor and role that it’s hard to believe anyone- much less Nicolas Cage, of all people- was considered for the part. And yet, to chalk the success of the performance (and by extension, the film) up to ideal casting doesn’t seem fair. Yes, on the surface Randy’s life bears a resemblance to Rourke’s lean years- an ex-golden boy reduced to doing paycheck work while continuing to plug away in a business that has seemingly lost its use for him. But while the audience’s goodwill for Rourke is informed in part by the knowledge of his career, the way he effortlessly carries the film on his shoulders is a testament to his talent.

“Oddly enough, to create a performance that feels so natural to the film, it required an almost awe-inspiring commitment on Rourke’s part to make it work. This commitment goes beyond his antics in the ring, aided as they undoubtedly were by stunt doubles and makeup effects. Both off the mat and on, Rourke is completely lacking in vanity- even when Randy has to look the part for the fans (bleached hair, tan, shaven armpits, etc.), Rourke isn’t afraid to get ugly. Randy is a man past his sell-by date, living in the past not merely as a way to stave off his own advancing years, but also because he lacks the skills and wherewithal to do anything but wrestle. In the ring, he can play the role of a star- albeit an aging has-been of a star- but outside he’s your basic, run-of-the-mill screwup, unable to even keep a job at a grocery store.

“It’s rare to see an actor as emotionally naked as Rourke is in The Wrestler. But while this comes through his big Oscar-y moments, it’s also unmistakable even in the small touches with which Rourke peppers his performance. Just look at the way his fingers tremble when he pulls the razor blade from his taped-up arms so he can cut himself during the match with Necrobutcher, the pained resignation he brings to the scene after he lets his daughter down yet again, or even the delicacy with which he approaches Cassidy (Marisa Tomei, also excellent), the stripper for whom he pines. Even the way he uneasily dons a pair of reading glasses to read a medicine bottle seems exactly right. With hundreds of touches like this, Rourke creates one of the year’s most unforgettable characters, and in the process gives a performance for the ages.” ~ Paul Clark

"In a year filled with breakthrough performances by actors such as Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight) and Colin Farrell (In Bruges), the best and most surprising of the year was Mickey Rourke's portrayal of Randy "The Ram" Robinson in Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler. While his chunky body and its unnatural tan are pitch perfect nods to the cartoony world of professional wrestling, there's nothing over-the-top about his performance. In laying bare the soul of a battered warrior who knows his time is nearly up, Rourke has also dug deep and unleashed some personal demons in a manner so profound that it's both marvelous and often difficult to watch.

“Despite the oft-cited parallels between the lives of Rourke and The Ram, the genius of Rourke in this film is the result of more than just being perfect for the role. He brings just the right amount of sensitivity and emotional vulnerability to round out The Ram's crumbling macho persona. In his scenes with Marissa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood he drops glimpses of the charm that made The Ram so popular but at the same time we see that he's ultimately just a pathetic mess. We want to root for him but we know it's of little use even though he does his best to insist otherwise.

“It's not too long into the movie before you stop wondering what happened to Rourke's face since 9 1/2 Weeks and instead accept the craggy visage of The Ram as the result of a lifetime of physical and emotional suffering. As the man behind the face that had been through so much, Rourke took a largely unremarkable film upon his lumpy shoulders and elevated it to amongst the year's best. Whereas The Ram's career came to an end, this film suggests quite adamantly that Rourke still has more left in his tank beyond this: the finest performance of the year." ~ Benjamin Lim

Sean Penn, Milk (167/26)
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Synecdoche, New York (81/15)
Richard Jenkins, The Visitor (67/12)
Benicio Del Toro, Che (67/11)

Click here for complete results




Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.