The Wrestler follows an old-time professional wrestler who has found that the years have caught up to him. Back in the day, he was the bright light on the wrestling circuit, fighting other big name wrestlers and enjoying the spotlight. Now, he wrestles in small venues, making a buck wherever he can and enjoying the little bit of recognition that he gets from fans of the old days. Along the way, we get to see what his years of diving off the top rope have done to him. His body is beat up, his ego bruised & battered and any sense of accomplishment has been diminished with time.
Mickey Rourke is probably the only actor that I can see playing this role. Unlike the Rocky movies, this film shows the actual reality of what years of getting beat up and struggling to make a living can do to a man. And every step of the way, Rourke plays up to the level that is needed to make this role work. Essentially this is an off-shoot of his real life story, so he is tailor-made for this role.
Marisa Tomei plays the stripper with a heart of gold role. She is the highlight of this film. Not only does she look fantastic, but her character is a complicated one. She comes across as being flippant towards Rourke’s character (Randy), but really she finds that the friendship that she has with him could blossom into more, but she is confused by it and doesn’t react to it until it’s almost too late.
As far as the directing, I do like how the Darren Aronofsky follows behind The Ram through most of the movie. It gives you a sense that you are following him through his life. And watching Ram walk into a room full of cheering fans or into the meat department of the local grocery is a very telling viewpoint. In his mind, he always wants to be the center of attention. He craves the audience and the attention. When he doesn’t get it, it’s a disappointment for him.
My main issue with this film is that it doesn’t really go anywhere. It is what it is really…a look at the life of a fallen sports hero. There is no neat wrap-up (which I am glad), but it doesn’t give you a sense that The Ram will make anything of his life either.
SPOILER ALERT – I am going to discuss some major plot points of the film following this. If you don’t want to know ANYTHING about this movie…stop here!
After suffering a heart attack, you would think that The Ram would have tried to do something more for himself and his life. But after unsuccessful attempts at befriending his daughter (who he has ignored for most of her life), making an unsuccessful pass at Tomei’s character (she doesn’t date customers. It’s the stripper mantra!) and attempting to find honest, everyday work at a deli, he gives up and jumps right back into the ring, which will inevitably kill him. I agree that a man or woman must do what they have to do, but the lifestyle of a wrestler can only last so long. It’s a young mans game, and The Ram sees that, but is unable to adjust for life as a regular joe. And that is where the film ends. We don’t know what ever becomes of The Ram…and in the case of this film, I really wanted to know what happens to him beyond the last scene of the film. I don’t need to know if he gets with Tomei…but I would like to know if he survives past that last match in the ring!
SPOILER ALERT OVER!!!
If you are a sports movie fan (which I kind of am), you will enjoy this movie. Its not the greatest movie I’ve ever seen, but it IS one of the better films of 2008. I will say this, nominating Rourke & Tomei for Oscars was a good move by the Academy. They are terrific in their roles and deserve the accolades. “The Wrestler”, as a movie, is NOT worthy of an Academy Award…however it IS worthy of your attention as a film. And that makes it good enough for me!
Overall Rating: A-