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A ROCKY For Our Troubled Times

 

Sunday, October 12-----Every generation deserves its own Rocky.....a reminder that guts can lead to glory. In 1976, Sylvester Stallone's sentimental tale of a past-his-prime boxer who finds love and redemption both in and out of the ring, was an unlikely hit and major Oscar winner. In the next 30 years, films about bucking the odds have become their own uniquely American genre.

 

This year's Rocky is also the comeback story of the year....both for its lead actor and also its star director. Mickey Rourke, one of Hollywood's original bad boys, has been in a career slump for 20 years, making grade C films and all but given up for dead in Hollywood circles. Darren Aronofsky, the wunderkind director of such films as Pi and Requiem For A Dream, has stumbled with his last few films. But with The Wrestler, which closes the New York Film Festival this evening, both actor and director have regained their positions at the top of the Hollywood heap....and as major contenders for the upcoming awards season.

 

The Wrestler has been building a head of steam since its world premiere in August at the Venice Film Festival. The drama nabbed the Golden Lion, the Festival's top prize, and was among the most buzzed titles at the Toronto International Film Festival. With Fox Searchlight now on board as the film's distributor, it is clear that this shaggy tale will be one of the big films of the season.

 

Rourke, who has been out of the A-list Hollywood limelight for years,  returns from rock bottom at the hands of Brooklyn director Darren Aronofsky. Rourke gives a soul-searching performance as an aging wrestler way past his prime who goes back into the ring to reignite his career and give his sorry life some meaning and purpose.

 

While boxing films have long been a Hollywood staple, the world of wrestling has been rather untouched. The result meshes the spectacle entertainment of cinema and sports with the tale of the man who without apology does what he does best -- indeed, the only thing that he knows. “The crowd,” Rourke's character declares, “is my family, [I’m not] a loser.” The same can be said for Rourke, who at the film's press conference said that "the most important thing is to get back in the saddle."

 

The cast includes professional actors mixed with colorful professional wrestlers in rocker Bruce Springsteen’s blue collar New Jersey, where Rourke remains a drawing card at local matches and memorabilia signings in school gyms and lodge halls. This is the story of a decent guy who has messed up his personal relationships and his career ambitions, but who finds the strength to continue, despite the odds being heaped against him. That transcendence is audience catnip, and The Wrestler offers an upbeat message during a time when many people are facing the limitations of their own power and influence on their present and their future lives. This year's Rocky could, in fact, go all the way.

 

Sandy Mandelberger, New York Film Festival Dailies Editor

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About NewYorkFilmFestival

New York Film Festival
Online Dailies coverage of the 44th NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL September 29 – October 15, 2006

United States



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