Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Public Service Announcement: The Wrestler is NOT Mickey Rourke's Comeback

The new Aronofsky film, The Wrestler, is getting rave early reviews. Everyone seems to agree on two things: it's a great film, and it's Mickey Rourke's comeback.

You'll have to excuse me for not really knowing who Mickey Rourke is. Sure, I've seem him in some movies, and he seems to be a pretty good actor, but I'm simply too young to remember his first go round. But even I know that this is not his comeback. David Ansen of Newsweek, one of my favorite critics, wins the idiot prize on this one: "To say this is a great comeback for an actor whose talent was exceeded only by his self-destructiveness is obvious."

That's right. It's obvious. So obvious that Ansen couldn't even say it without noting its obviousness.

So now we get to play a little game. What if there was an actor who flamed out a long time ago but started working his way back into relevance? What if he had a series of small and medium size roles in movies as diverse as Domino, The Pledge, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Man on Fire, and a few others over the course of the last decade? And what if that upward movement of a dead career (some might even call it (obviously) a "comeback") resulted in the biggest, juiciest, flashiest role in a movie that also featured Bruce Willis, Clive Owen, Rutger Hauer, Rosario Dawson, Brittany Murphy, Benicio Del Toro, Jessica Alba, Powers Boothe, Michael Clark Duncan, Josh Hartnett, Michael Madsen, and Elijah Wood? And what if that actor outshone all of those other actors (even the good ones!) and was wisely praised for his role, his biggest in decades? And what if that movie opened #1 at the box office, quadrupled its production budget in gross revenue, and got everyone (even young people like me, who'd barely heard of this actor prior to this movie) talking about this actor?

Don't call The Wrestler a comeback, unless you want people to think that you can't remember 2005. And if you can't remember 2005, meet Marv:

He has a way of making people remember things they think they've forgotten.


Big Mike Mendez said...

Word. Sin City forever. Every time I watch that movie it feels like the first time again.

Graham said...

Glad you agree, Mike. And I'm with you about Sin never ceases to amaze me. It's a masterpiece.

Jenn said...

Some of my friends were talking about this the other day and I challenged them to name ONE Rourke movie...the table went quiet.

Dan said...

Man, this makes me feel old because I remember the 80's all too well and know what critics are talking about when they say comeback in regards to Rourke's heyday. Though I think comeback is an overused and meaningless buzzword. I remember that FLETCH was called Chevy Chase's comeback in 1985 (see what I mean - I'm old) and he replied "I didn't know I'd gone anywhere". Anyway BARFLY is one of my favorite movies and the only Rourke I own on DVD. I would highly recommend it but alas it is currently out of print. Sigh.

Luke said...

I remember seeing Sin City twice in the theatres and being floored, but also thinking, "Am I overestimating its reach because it packs such a punch?" Clearly, I need to give it another go-around because I haven't watched it since. Seems like you guys are saying it holds up.

Graham said...

Luke! Welcome back to the internet! I definitely never get tired of watching this movie, although I know people who think its massive impact doesn't hold up on repeat viewings. But for a while it was my go to movie to watch whenever I wanted to experience some ultraviolence (replaced Gladiator; was replaced by The Departed) and it's never gotten old for me.

Jenn, I can now name, like, five Rourke movies. But virtually none from the era that Dan was in Body Heat! I'm done now.

Dan, I'm with you: the word comeback is almost meaningless. If Zach and Miri doesn't do well, I'm sure Seth Rogen's next movie will be his comeback.

Evan Derrick said...

I had the same reaction when people kept calling Juno Ellen Page's "Breakout Role" when she should have been nominated 100 times over for her performance in Hard Candy.

So.... have you got your internet fixed yet, or is this all coming from the computers on campus still?

Graham said...

Yeah, I've had the internet for like a week now! but I was out of town for a while, and thus disappeared again.

Interview sometime?

I never saw Hard Candy. We would sell about 5 tickets of it a night when it was at the theater I worked at; roughly 40% of those 5 people would walk out of every show.

So I think the Sin City thing is a little more egregious, because at least people saw and liked that movie. I personally view The Insider to be Russell Crowe's breakthrough role, but you could pick a ton of movies for that instead:

Romper Stomper - first great leading performance
LA Confidential - stole a high profile movie from more famous actors
Insider - Academy nomination
Gladiator - became a household name

Just depends on how you want to define "breakout." In that scenario, I'd probably say that Hard Candy:Juno::Romper Stomper:Gladiator. But her career went alot faster than Crowe's did, so I guess my analogy is done.

Evan Derrick said...

Yes, interview sometime. Let's discuss over email. My schedule has returned to it's normal state of busyness, which is to say it is much less busy than it has been the past two weeks.

And you haven't seen Hard Candy? Ummm... rent it immediately. As in now. It was my introduction to Ellen Page it's a riveting film. Not easy to watch, but riveting.

MovieMan0283 said...

I don't really like that movie, but I loved Mickey Rourke's performance.