I’ve been a wrestling fan since I was a kid, and grew up to be a bit of a mark for it. Never mind that it’s fake and scripted; there’s always something about professional wrestling that keeps me riveted to every storyline, every angle, and every match. I guess it’s the element of spectacle in pro wrestling; in so many ways, a pro wrestler icon is larger than life. Why wouldn’t you be, when you’re supposed to be at the peak of physical fitness? Why wouldn’t you be, when you lead entirely different lives in and out of the ring? That difference, I think, is the underlying theme of The Wrestler.
I’m going out on a limb in saying that this could very well be one of the best movies of the year.
I’m not a big movie buff myself, so I don’t really know how to go about ending the movie, the way it went.
Mickey Rourke’s performance as “The Ram” lends itself well to his Best Actor nomination; beyond the gruff, tough-guy image that he presents to a world lies desperation and destitution. From fame and glory, we watch this ring legend become a warehouse loader and an assistant at a deli counter, working the ropes on off-days, falling in love with a stripper (Marisa Tomei), and estranged from his daughter (Evan Rachel Wood). To cap it all off, the aging, broken-down Robinson had one final shot for glory: a match against his greatest rival, “Ayatollah” (Ernest Miller; you know him as “The Cat” from World Championship Wrestling). Add a near-fatal heart attack caused by years of steroid abuse and a hardcore match, and the pride of a man ignored by society but praised in the ring, and you have high drama.
It’s not like Randy “The Ram” became a millionaire or a world champion or redeemed everything he ever had in his life. Every barbed wire match, every painful pill-popping moment, every clothesline and dropkick in The Wrestler ended in a fade-to-black scene. Not exactly Rocky, but how else are you going to end this movie? It’s so desperate, so banal, so carnal, more human than human, so spectacular, so simulated… there’s just no way to end it.
If you’re looking for “meaning” or “moral lessons” in this movie, you won’t find any. Chances are you’ll find the movie lacking in things that are meaningful or substantial. It’s violent, gross, gruesome, and grotesque.
If you don’t watch professional wrestling, you probably will not like this movie. If you’re a professional wrestling fan, you probably won’t like this movie either. The Wrestler is not without disturbing scenes of sex, drug use, steroid abuse, and a hardcore match picking Randy “The Ram” Robinson (Mickey Rourke) versus Necro Butcher (if you watch Combat Zone Wrestling, you know him). There’s an ongoing debate about how accurately Darren Aronofsky’s film portrays the world of professional wrestling; granted, not all pro wrestlers end up like Randy Robinson. There is also a grain of truth to the assumption that this “outsider” film deals with a very “inside” perspective of pro wrestling, and somewhat distorts truths about it (aren’t we all outsiders to wrestling anyhow).
Then again, I come into this movie not as a wrestling fan, but as a movie fan. Once you take away wrestling from The Wrestler, the movie becomes a very gut-wrenching story without a fairytale ending. The Wrestler is exactly that; a movie where wrestling is taken away from the wrestler.
Spectacular, yet it hits a very raw nerve, doesn’t it?