Back in the 1980s when bad-hair rockers ruled so did Randy “The Ram” Robinson (Rourke) a champion wrestler who finds himself at the end of the line. Too many steroids and too much partying have taken their toll on the middle-aged wrestler whose health is failing faster than his self-esteem. In his own way Randy’s just trying to salvage what’s left of his life. Trouble is he doesn’t know how and after retiring from wrestling he discovers that the ring is the only place he’s ever found a modicum of dignity and self-satisfaction and undertakes a comeback that is perhaps unwise but nevertheless inevitable. It’s all he knows. In a performance bound to be much talked-about during awards season Mickey Rourke brings distinct echoes of his own persona and career to the role of Randy “The Ram” Robinson. Yet to be fair to screenwriter Robert D Siegel it’s also a strong and nuanced piece of writing. Character studies are few and far-between these days in Hollywood. This picture not only qualifies but qualifies as something on the level of a 21st-century Requiem for a Heavyweight. The film is unquestionably a showcase for its leading man but there’s exceptional supporting work. Marisa Tomei (who’s made something of a comeback for herself lately considering her work here and in last year’s Before the Devil Knows You're Dead) plays a stripper not quite of the golden-heart variety but close who takes a shine to Randy and Evan Rachel Wood as Randy’s long-estranged and long-embittered daughter. Additional flavor is added by the appearances of many real-life pro wrestlers in the background. But there’s no question to whom this movie belongs to and Rourke’s performance is indeed among the very best and perhaps the single most appealing of his screen work to date. Since his auspicious feature debut Pi a full decade ago Darren Aronofsky has made two subsequent feature films -- the powerhouse adaptation of Requiem for a Dream and the epic fantasy romance The Fountain which polarized audiences; he’s made every one count. In some ways this is his most accessible and human film but it’s in no way a traditional crowd-pleaser. It’s gutsy and gutty yet heartfelt. It’s also unlike Aronofsky has ever done before although there are a few thematic echoes to his earlier work (particularly The Fountain in terms of the principal character’s musings about loss) and again helps to stake his claim as one of today’s most daring young filmmakers -- unwilling to coast on previous success and instead intent on treading new ground each time out.
A guy who usually doesn't have luck with the ladies Matt Saunders (Luke Wilson) has finally found the perfect girl. Egged on by his buddy Vaughn (Rainn Wilson) Matt pursues the mousy and innocent-looking Jenny Johnson (Uma Thurman) after the two meet on a subway. But Jenny has a few secrets--and what Matt doesn't know in this case can hurt him. See Jenny is really G-Girl a superhero and although it's a side most superheroes don't show G-Girl is a bit possessive and essentially has a borderline personality. So when Matt wants to dump her so he can go out with his quiet and cute co-worker Hannah (Anna Faris) Jenny er G-Girl goes ballistic. She unleashes her superpowers on Matt and unsuspecting Hannah doing things like throwing a shark through his window while they're making out tossing his car around immature things like that. What Matt doesn't do is obey the cardinal rule: Never break up with a girl when she's holding a knife--or when she can throw you through a wall by blowing on you. This should be Luke Wilson's moment to shine and he seizes it. He's had little chance to break away from his goofier-looking and more popular brother Owen and has never carried a movie as much as this one. It's perhaps his meatiest role in which he gets to show a restrained comedic side as well as a dramatic angry and perplexed side. Although it's a typical romantic comedy plot the storyline allows for more reach because of the absurd nature of the jealousy by G-Girl’s arch nemesis Professor Bedlam played perfectly by Brit comic Eddie Izzard as well as the persistently bad advice from Matt’s friend Vaughn played by scene-stealer Rainn Wilson (TV's The Office). Rainn is a definitely a talent to watch out for. Unfortunately Thurman is the biggest disappointment. She's exciting only when she rekindles her Kill Bill persona but is mostly outshined by the cute and fun Anna Faris who's so naively brilliant in the Scary Movie spoofs. Expectations would have to be high if you have director Ivan Reitman on board the guy behind such classic comedies as Animal House Ghostbusters and Dave. Perhaps that's why it's so disappointing--and so very familiar. The comic moments are retreads from the past. Sure we've seen the odd moments where mortals make it with super-human characters--Superman II Bewitched I Dream of Jeannie--and every once in a while the character with super powers gets a bit peeved and goes off the deep end. The best contribution Reitman makes is to keep the over-the-top comedic aspects in check. He doesn’t have the actors play it for laughs. But if you look at past history female superhero movies don't seem to do well at the box office (Elektra and Catwoman anyone?) maybe because guys don't like to take dates to see movies about women who will kick their butts. And guys will be cringing in their seats BIG time when Jenny is trying to analyze the real meaning of the color of a rose that she just got. "Red means that you're in love with the girl. Of course I'm not trying to pressure you." Ugh! Just take the flower.