Friday, October 16, 2009

Musing Pictures: The Wrestler

A brief observation that Darren Aronofsky's "The Wrestler" (2008) is yet another film in the very recent wave of films about growing old. Specifically, it is a film that explores the tension between the dignities and indignities of growing older. Whereas other films seem to evoke a certain noble resignation to old age (characters coming to peace with their weakening bodies and lengthening lifespans), this film depicts that dignity and its loss, as the central character (Randy "The Ram" Robinson, earning an Oscar for Mickey Rourke) tries to accept his slow disintegration, and eventually gives up, refusing to "act his age", stubbornly clinging to a youthfulness that his body can no longer sustain.

It is perhaps not surprising that the film is about a man who does not successfully transition to elderliness -- the film is directed by Darren Aronofsky, whose other films (including "Pi" (1998) and "Requiem for a Dream" (2000) dwell deeply in to the failures of their central characters.

Hollywood once taught us that youth, even in old age, was king. Grandparents who learned how to play again were the ones we cheered, the ones we applauded for. Now that audiences are older, we're looking at age slightly differently. The heroes are those who can climb up and out of the prime of their lives, to a dignified, self-assured sunset. I imagine this new view will dominate much of cinema over the next decade. We'll see how it then transforms our culture (when life starts imitating the art that imitates it)


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