Not since Angela Bassett in What’s Love Got to Do With It have I seen an actor portary both the performer as person of an entertainer as well as did Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler.Â While I found the movie difficult to watch at times, I was absolutely blown away by his performance.Â And impressed with that of Marisa Tomei.
You both believe him when he’s in the arena as when he struggles with his relationship to his daughter and to a stripper for whom he’s fallen.Â You see him confront his decline with a grace and pathos rarely portrayed so subtly on the silver screen.
What always impressed me about Bassett’s realization (incarnation?) of Tina Turner was not just that she portrayed the emotions of a talented artist, rising from obscurity to stardom while struggling with a husband who saw her more as a meal ticket than a loving companion, but how hard she worked to realize Turner the performer.Â And Tina Turner is not just a great singer, but has an amazing stage (and screen) presence.Â Bassett captured that.
Just as Rourke captured the presence of a professional wrestler who knows his profession is as much about entertainment as it about sport.Â To quote Theodore Roosevelt, he is truly “in the arena.”
Before I had seen this film, I was rooting for Frank Langella to win the Oscar for Best Actor, largely because I see an Academy Award as honoring not just a particular performance, but also a lifetime achievement (as was its original purpose).Â Â And Langella has a lifetime of great performances, most of them in small roles.
I tend to root for the oldest of the nominees when there are number of amazing performances.Â And at least three actors richly deserve the honor (Sean Penn being the third).Â I was rooting for Langella, but after seeing The Wrestler, I no longer have a favorite in this race.Â But, I wonder if ten years hence, I again catch the flick, if I’ll feel as I do every time I watch What’s Love Got to Do With it, the lead wuz robbed.
Oh, and one more thing.Â When I lived in Paris in the late 1980s, Mickey Rourke was to the French what Jerry Lewis had been a generation before.Â Maybe they were onto something . . . .