I saw this more as a fan of Rourke, mildly as a fan of Aronofsky, and with a bit of affection for the WWF stuff I watched a little as a kid.
It's impressive Rourke was willing to look like shit without the tons of Sin-City style makeup. It's impressive he could still get into the audience's heads and hearts. He's a very talented performer, and seemed to have something to prove. However, I'm not sure there was anything to his performance that hadn't been previously done for Aronofsky by Ellen Burstyn, and done better. If Rourke wins anything, he should publically declare he's splitting the prize with Ellen Burstyn.
I imagine Marisa Tomei feels entitled to the respect she's getting. Her character, arc, and physical demands seemed pretty standard fare to me, but her performance was stronger and deserved notice. However, her performance being considered one of the year's greatest female performances is a condemnation of Hollywood. As female characters go, she is slightly more raw than average, but absolutely unremarkable. I thought her stuff particularly at the end of the film was either too much or not enough, and whichever it was, it left me unsatisfied and discontent.
I remember the moment I realized how the film was going to end, when Rourke sees a glimmer of what he is and where he's going. At that point, it seemed clear to me that the physical and emotional damage he was inflicting on himself were done out of hollow desperation, and it became difficult to see the film as anything other than a similar sort of hollow desperation. I think Aronofsky screwed the story up most by what he did with Evan Rachel wood. Had her story worked differently, tat one beautiful moment might have been less powerful or surprising, but the overall film would feel stronger and less cliched.
In short, because the film has achingly realistic portraits of pain and sorrow, it deserves some acclaim. However, because the film breaks no new ground and falls back onto cliche and tropic archetypes, it is only a pretty good movie, and hardly a significant achievement, except perhaps, for its redemption-seeking star.
Am i wrong to assume the fading stars of the WWF were expected cameo appearances? I would have been much more impressed with the staple-gun in Macho Man Randy Savage's hands, or to see a sad, portly Bobby the Brain as a ref or something.
Ouier' kouen selkhir.