MOVIE REVIEW: The Wrestler

Starring Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei

Directed by Darren Aronofsky

Written by Robert D. Siegel

 

Picture this: You are blessed with a rare

talent, ability, or skill.  That skill

brings you fortune and fame beyond your wildest dreams. You are adored by

millions.  Then, one day, it’s all

over.  You find yourself working a

regular job for regular pay, and those fans who adored you in your prime have

mostly grown up and moved on to more adult pursuits.  How do you cope?  Do you continue to perform the same hat trick

for diminishing crowds, even though you abilities have deteriorated over the

years?  Even though, one day, it may kill

you?

 

Darren Aronofsky’s latest film, The Wrestler, provides an unexpectedly

compelling backdrop for such a story: The world of professional wrestling.  This same backdrop offers us a sympathetic

(yet ultimately pathetic) protagonist in Randy “The Ram” Robinson.  It paints his struggle with life after “the

spotlight” in a way that is equal parts funny, insightful, painful and oddly

triumphant.

 

Mickey Rourke plays wrestler Randy “The

Ram” Robinson.  Randy was quite the star

back in 80’s.  He had his own action

figure, was featured in countless magazines and even a Nintendo video

game.  That was then, and Randy is now a

has-been with nothing to show for his past glory.  He lives in a trailer home and is working

part time at a local grocery store in order to make ends meet.  Robinson still wrestles, but not in the same

capacity as in his heyday. He now performs in the “minor leagues”, to greatly

diminished crowds made up mostly of nostalgic adults. 

 

Randy finds a kindred spirit in an older

stripper named Cassidy (Played by Marisa Tomei) , who is also well past her

prime as a performer.  The patrons of the

strip club she dances in regularly refuse table dances from her due to her

age.  Randy’s daughter Stephanie (Played

by Evan Rachel Wood) holds a venomous resentment towards him for the way he

neglected her as a child.  It would seem

that the only good thing in Randy’s life, the only thing worth fighting for, is

the adulation and cheers from the fans whenever he steps into the ring.  For Randy, the cheers of the fans serve as

both anti- depressant and painkiller. 

They help him to cope with the unholy mess his personal life has become.

 

Believe the hype.  Although the character of Randy “The Ram” has

parallels to Mickey Rourke himself, Mickey isn’t simply going through the

motions here.  He is actually giving arguably

the strongest performance of his career. 

The role is a demanding one, both emotionally and physically, as Rourke

performed many of his own stunts during the wrestling scenes.  Some of it is downright painful to watch,

though not nearly as painful as the emotional and psychological turmoil the

character endures outside of the ring. 

We watch Mickey Rourke visit some very uncomfortable places, and we feel

for him.  He truly rises to the occasion.

 

Darren Aronofsky keeps things interesting

by shooting the film in a guerilla, pseudo -documentary style and giving us

lots of real insight into the world of Professional wrestling.  He allows us to see that while wrestling

itself is “fake”, the wrestlers themselves are very much true athletes and

physical performers. 

 

Tomei spends a good deal of time in this

film mostly nude, and it is to her credit that we, the audience, are not completely

focused on that.  She takes what could

have been a stock character (the stripper/whore with a heart of gold) and turns

it into something much more tangible.

 

There is much sadness and pain in this

film, but also an undercurrent of triumph in self- realization and

acceptance.  We are what we are, and we

will only be at peace with the world around us if we are able to come to grips

with and accept who we are.  The Wrestler

makes the argument that it is nearly impossible for an entertainer/performer to

be a real person once they have been at the top, and gotten a taste of all that

comes with it.  Once the spotlight moves

on, and fans no longer care about you, how do you go on living a normal life?  The real struggle isn’t in getting to the top

or even in maintaining that position, but in continuing on after you’ve fallen

off.

 

The Wrestler is one of the best films of the year, and features

perhaps the performance of Mickey Rourke’s career.  This is not only his “comeback” film, but the

film he will be remembered by for years to come.

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