Monday, February 2, 2009

Mickey Rourke

It's Oscar time, and as I heard on NPR the Oscar nominations were announced at a time that made it impossible for theaters to know what movies to program to get the best "Oscar bump." So they scheduled everything, which meant the 16-screen Cinema in St. Cloud which hardly ever has anything worth seeing suddenly had four movies worth seeing. Steve and I had recently seen Diner on the Roku (Netflix on demand box) and the story seemed compelling, so we went to see The Wrestler.

I am now officially obsessed with Mickey Rourke. There is very little information to be found about him. I've looked at lots of photos and it seems that every young male star in Hollywood wants their picture taken with him. And it's clear he's an asshole. He grew up in Miami; he may or may not have been a boxer in his youth (he definitely spent time in a boxing gym, but may have lied about an early Golden Gloves career). He is an amazing actor and left that career to be a boxer, until a series of concussions made him decide to give it up, shy of a title. He turned down several important roles, including the Bruce Willis role in Pulp Fiction. He made two of the best movies ever, Diner and Barfly, and one of the worst ones, Angel Heart. He coulda been a contender, or a great actor, but he's clearly too self-destructive and, well, an asshole. This may be his comeback, but probably not. He's already had several roles in recent movies, Sin City and Man on Fire for example, but you don't remember because, well, he doesn't look like Mickey Rourke anymore.

And in this movie, it's nearly impossible to take your eyes off him. First of all because you just can barely see Mickey Rourke in that face. Second, because it's the most real performance you'll ever see. His body seems impossible, his face. His accent is dead-on New Jersey professional wrestler.

The movie itself is wonderful, although I could have done with a lot less unsteadycam. There are scenes in it that are astonishing. I think my favorites are the ones of him working behind the deli counter. It's a real deli counter, and those are real customers, who don't of course recognize Mickey Rourke.

There's a great Fresh Air interview with Darren Aronofsky, in which he says the most interesting thing about Mickey Rourke I know. He said that his biggest accomplishment was getting Mickey Rourke not to wear sunglasses in a single frame in the film. He said that Mickey Rourke's main objective is to avoid eye contact, because when you look in his eyes-- there's so much there. Click here for the link to the interview.

I always found Mickey Rourke just a tad creepy, not seductive. 8 1/2 Weeks didn't do it for me. All that pursing of lips made him seem smug and, well, like an asshole frankly. His portrayal of Charles Bukowski, a complete asshole, was much more compelling. But this, this beautiful, tragic, walking wreck who is at equal parts damaged and vain is unlike anything I thought I'd ever see on film.


SauroMotel said...

Susan, interesting post about "The Wrestler" and Mickey Rourke. I could be mistaken, but it looked like the deli scene was filmed in the Acme in Elizabeth, NJ. I didn't realize those were real customers.

My favorite Mickey Rourke role was in "The Pope of Greenwich Village" with Eric Roberts and Burt Young (Paulie from the Rocky movies). Opening scene is a stickball game - with Rourke smiling smugly, and I think wearing sunglasses - as "Summer Wind" by Sinatra plays in the background.

I enjoyed "The Wrestler" and it led me to post an entry on my blog called "Scared Straight (or How I Got My Driver's License"). Follow this link if you want to check it out.

Susan Sink said...

I had no idea you were that close to "Scared Straight"! That does up the ante for the driving test! Good essay.

I think they say in the Fresh Air interview exactly which Acme that scene was filmed in.

And who can forget Eric Roberts' high point: "They took my thumbs! Paulie! They didn't have to take my thumbs!"