In this new weekly feature titled Great Performances, I will give an in-depth analysis of some of the best performances I've ever seen. In this first edition, the performance I have chosen is one that is still fresh in my mind. It is Mickey Rourke's stunning, Oscar-nominated work in The Wrestler.

This is a performance that was widely loved by both critics and audiences. However, he did lose the highly competitive Best Actor race to Sean Penn for his role in Milk. The only bad thing I've heard about Rourke's performance is that he is really isn't acting, he's basically playing himself. Well, first off, that doesn't make much sense because Mickey isn't the first talented actor to struggle in Hollywood, and if playing yourself is so effective, why hasn't it been done before? The second thing wrong with that statement, is that by saying he plays himself in the movie, you are implying that not much work went into his performance. That is ridiculous. He went through rigorous training for the wrestling scenes, and he is quoted as saying that "I got hurt more in the three months of wrestling than I did in 16 years of boxing." And for those of you that have seen the results of his boxing career that is really saying something.

Another great thing about this performance is that Mickey didn't shy away from any challenge that Darren Aronofsky presented to him. To have a great performance, there needs to be a great chemistry, respect, and friendship between director and actor, and Aronofsky and Rourke definitely have that. If this movie was in anyone else's hands, besides Aronofsky, this whole movie could've fallen apart. Rourke put so much trust into his director and believed in everything he was doing. But he also risked a lot. If this movie didn't open up to it's glowing reception, think about how bad Mickey would've felt then. This movie was basically a make-or-break comeback. If it worked, he'd have a revived career; if it didn't, he'd be bashed even more than he was before.

One more thing to consider about this performance is how much of it was orchestrated by Rourke himself. He improvised a lot of the scenes, most notably the fantastic deli and locker room scenes. He wanted the movie to be purely authentic, and that’s exactly what it was. Mickey also re-wrote some of his scenes, including the best scene in the movie where he bears his soul to Evan Rachel Wood. I'm not sure I've seen a more genuine moment in the history of cinema than when the tears fall from the face of Randy "The Ram”.

Did he deserve the Oscar? You bet. Do I really care that he didn't get it? A little bit. Regardless of who won the award, there's no question that in twenty years Rourke's work will be more remembered than Penn's. I'm not bashing Sean Penn. In fact, I think he's a magnificent actor. But Mystic River was his masterpiece. The Wrestler is Mickey Rourke's. And that's that.


Encore Entertainment said...

And Revolutionary Road was Leo's. A big fan of Penn but you Milk was not his best. In my opinion it should have been down to Rourke v Langella v DiCaprio. Nice review though.

Danny King said...

DiCaprio was unbelievable in Revolutionary Road. I was very disappointed his work was overlooked, he definitely deserved a nomination over Brad Pitt. Langella was also fantastic. Best Actor was a very crowded field last year, lots of great performances.

Rae Kasey said...

I actually felt that Milk was Penn's best performance to date, but I was really rooting for Mickey.

Milk was a great ensemble picture, but Rourke carried The Wrestler almost entirely by himself, and definitely should have won.

Glad to hear my sentiments about Leo's Revolutionary Road performance echoed. His best so far, for sure. I'm also pretty horrified that Winslet won for her lesser effort last year. She was so much better in Rev. Road.

Danny King said...

I agree with you on pretty much everything. Milk was definitely more of an ensemble piece than The Wrestler. Even though Evan Rachel Wood and Marisa Tomei were both fantastic, it was clearly Rourke's film.

I also can't agree more on Kate Winslet. I thought she was far superior in Revolutionary Road. They recognized her for the wrong film in my opinion.

I still think Penn was incredible in Mystic River. He was great in Milk, but I just think that Mystic River is more of the role he was born to play. Maybe it's because I actually liked Mystic River better than Milk as a film.

Anonymous said...

Rourke's performance was truly something to behold. His speech at the end makes me tear up every time.

Danny King said...

It's so tough to say which scene is more emotional: the speech to his daughter or the speech to his fans? On one hand, his relationship with his daughter so emotional, but then he sacrifices everything he has for the fans. Tough to choose...So many great moments in that performance.

The Kid In The Front Row said...

I think this is a really stand-out amazing performance. Rourke is SO natural in the role, he totally becomes it. It's amazing to see.

Douglas Penland said...

Mickey Rourke really fits the role of a washed-up wrestler, due to his outer appearance. Also, he did justice to the pain and suffering that every wrestler went through to entertain all of us. The movie is a roller coaster ride of emotions, and surely, it'll tug your heartstrings, even if I watched it a lot of times on theater in Murfreesboro, TN. It also made me reminisce my childhood when I am always a recipient of dental check-ups at the dentist, due to me imitating various wrestling moves.

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