The Wrestler review [by Matt Gosciminski]
After waiting what I would presume is somewhere around six months time and seeing trailers and reading reviews, I was finally able to see Darren Aronofsky’s “The Wrestler” (after many hateful wishes towards those who are privileged to be wherever “limited release” happens to be.) I have to say that all the buzz and award nods for Mickey Rourke’s portrayal of washed up wrestler Randy “The Ram” Robinson are not unfounded.
The film follows Rourke’s character as he lives a shadow of his former life as a professional wrestler. The film opens to a collage of news clippings from the 80s set to hair metal showcasing the former glory of “The Ram” and takes place 20 years after said glory. During the movie we follow Randy around as he copes with a world without wrestling after suffering a heart attack. During this time we see him try to reconnect with his estranged daughter (Evan Rachael Wood) and tries to facilitate a relationship with an aging stripper (Marissa Tomei) who comes in and out of the picture, not knowing what she wants.
Shortly after the movie starts we get a feel of where it’s going to go as Randy arrives home to his trailer which he finds has had a lock affixed to it. Like a sad puppy he scratches at the door to the landlord, begging for a break on the month’s rent. After no one answers his plea he retires to his van, where he cracks open a beer and sits alone. The side of the van’s inside wall is plastered with clippings of former glory from a life that is now a shadow. The movie is full of moments like these, where we see Randy’s childlike hope shine through his lonely and beaten life as he survives on the fuel of those far and few local wrestling matches where he can once again flex his muscles as “The Ram,” his true persona.
Despite the title, the movie isn’t solely about wrestling. However, Aronofsky does a great job of portraying a world I personally have never explored. He shows us the humor inherent in the field without ridiculing it, and contrasts the on-stage “personas” of the wrestlers with their backstage humility as they give each other pointers and encouragement in their careers as opposed to their blood thirst in the ring. The film respects the wrestlers and after seeing this movie I can say that I respect those underwear-clad, mad muscle men a bit more too.
The movie was relatively simple in its execution; a lot of the shots seemed like they were easy to set up and were simple to record however this certainly doesn’t take away from the film. Aronofsky’s used a lot of over-the-shoulder shots where the camera followed a character around (most often Rourke) which added a bit of a documentary feel to the movie that made it seem more real, as if ‘The Ram” were an actual wrestler and we were watching his life story unfold on Vh1.
Aside from Rourke’s mesmerizing performance, the supporting cast was very adept as well. Tomei and Wood’s characters seem like they will be a bit cliché at first, I mean the wounded estranged daughter and intriguing stripper seem like they could become played out, but overall they help give Rourke some of his best scenes. Not to sound like I’m repeating myself, but I really can’t get some of Rourke’s performance out of my head. It was painfully sincere and hard to watch at times. It’s evident I think that Rourke has injected some of his own experience with a failing career into his character in order to give “The Ram” such life.
This is definitely a movie I look forward to seeing again. It’s a great film packed with emotionality, sincerity, and intriguing characters. If conditions were different and I weren’t such a bastion of manly stalwartness I might be compelled to shed a tear at certain scenes. Aside from that, this is a movie that I would say you should definitely go see. It’s a small budget film, so hey, lets reward the crew while its in theaters and think about pirating it later, eh America?