Two movies this weekend, both old and banished to cable, one a pleasant surprise, the other its opposite. Why? Because it’s Monday, I have to finish a story for money and do the customary work for no money, and why else? Because it’s quarterly tax day, the little fountains of joy for all self-employed lucky devils like me.
First, “The Wrestler.” I’d been resisting it for what I considered perfectly good reasons, primarily an allergy to Mickey Rourke and a question I could honestly answer no way, i.e., do I really care about professional wrestling’s permanent undercard? Friends, was I wrong.
Honestly, Rourke is nearly unrecognizable as Randy “the Ram” Robinson. No, he is Robinson. Whatever ’80s buzz he had as an actor, the stuff he squandered so readily with the usual vanity projects, bad relationships and worse behavior, lurks behind every shot of his ruined face. The fact the actor’s was ruined by plastic surgery and the wrestler’s by bad behavior and work is just serendipity. Rourke can barely move his mouth, but it plays as suppressed pain instead of Botox. But he’s not the best thing about “The Wrestler.” The details are, and I wished we’d gotten an extra 24 hours of pay-per-view, because I wanted to watch it again and just look at the products on the dressing-room counters, the set dressing in his crappy trailer, the way Randy and his stripper girlfriend exult over ’80s hair bands before “that Cobain pussy came around and ruined it all.”
And, I should add, the ending was absolutely perfect. So go rent the DVD.
Next up: “Feast of Love,” a two-star disappointment that only gets the second star because of the costumes and set design — everybody and everything looks real good. Otherwise, bleh. The novel was one of the great discoveries of my year in Ann Arbor, recommended by one of my writing teachers, who’d chosen Michigan’s MFA program over Iowa’s solely so she could study with Charles Baxter, the author. It’s a wonderful book, a “Midsummer Night’s Dream” of relationships romantic and familial, old and young, and the movie is just pretty actresses getting naked. I know what you’re thinking, but seriously: All those lovely breasts can’t save it.
One of my old screenwriting profs mentioned the film last January, at a panel discussion about Michigan’s tax incentives for moviemaking, and suggested relocating the story from Ann Arbor to Portland was a great mistake and insult. I can’t agree 100 percent, but there is one scene that left me sneering, in which a medical emergency mires a car trying to make its way to an ER; in the book they’re stuck in gridlocked traffic on Stadium Boulevard, just as the Ohio State-Michigan game is ending. The characters’ cries for help blend in with the exultation of the crowd — the Wolverines pulled out another one — and it’s just a wonderful scene of tragedy and absurdity, the individual buried in a sea of humanity. Robert Benton tries to duplicate it, but there’s something about seeing these wan Oregonians waving their stupid thunder sticks that was just ridiculous. It might have helped if they could have wrangled more than 30 extras to pretend to be Big 10 football fans, too, but I guess they blew the budget on body makeup.
Also, if we give Morgan Freeman a sizable sum of money, can we get it in writing that he will never play a wise old man again? I know, I know — the voice, it’s Morgan Freeman, but all he’s required to do anymore is stare over the top of his reading glasses and be wise.
Can’t stay long today; see the usual excuses. A bit of bloggage:
The Detroit dailies may be on life support, but they’re going down swinging. Yesterday in the Freep, yet another tale of official misconduct — a pension board that travels the world on tax dollars, leaving two days early, coming home five days late, etc. What a bunch of weasels.
Best new boat name in our neck of the lake: Amy’s Wine House. I’ll try to get a picture next time I’m out in the kayak.
OK, off to the bakery and to start the Monday sprint. Good times!