The Wrestler (2008) – Movie Review

The Wrestler

Written by: Robert D. Siegel
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood, Mark Margolis, Todd Barry

My Advice: Don’t miss it.

Randy “The Ram” (Rourke) is a wrestler who’s two decades past his glory days. But he’s a wrestler–that’s his love and his life. So he goes where the bouts are and where the signings are, despite his age, his reading glasses and his hearing aid. He also has a job at a grocery store to help make ends meet. He has a daughter (Wood) who he never sees and seeks company with a stripper (Tomei). So is it possible to have more to life? Is it possible to change? Or are we who we are and we have to just learn to live with it?

The poster might tout this as the resurrection of Rourke, but it’s certainly just his ability to get the attention. Those of us with taste thought he was fantastic as Marv in Sin City and that’s where his comeback began. But whereas in Marv he was the perfect embodiment of a barbarian killing machine and fantastic, Rourke shows that he can do drama like there was no tomorrow. His Randy is the sort of loser that you can’t help but root for, more and more as we see his day to day existence. He’s now the perfect embodiment of everybody: mostly we’re working jobs we hate because we can’t make enough money doing the things we love. We don’t treat our family as well as we’d like. We’re not as good as we should be–and we know this. And the fact that we know it and can’t seem to fix it makes the whole thing somehow worse. That’s Randy the Ram right there.

And Rourke is this big, built-up, loser of a man who gets the shit beat out of him for money–as fake as it looks, you have to be a good athlete to not get killed in the ring–and is still able to utterly and completely break your heart in to bits. It’s that knowing. If he was just a loser who didn’t know and didn’t care what he was, that would be one thing. But he does. And that makes him us. And that makes us get more and more invested, which brings the film towards its conclusion and us unable to do anything to avert it.

Have you gotten the picture that Rourke is ridiculously good yet? You have? Okay, good. Because without him to anchor this thing in honesty, you could easily name off the plot points as they happen–but the reality of the situation prevents that. Tomei and Wood both give some great supporting performances, although I do like Wood as the disappointed daughter. But Tomei, when she comes alive in the role, shines as well. And Aronofsky tones down the hyper-realism of something like Requiem For a Dream and goes for a great deal of single camera, documentary-style realism. We know these are actors, but the situation feels so real on the surface (and so familiar below the surface–see above) that you’re sucked in and can’t leave.

Is this a film that has to be seen on the big screen? For the most part, no–but I classify it as Don’t Miss It because of Rourke. He is utterly fantastic and makes the movie.

By | 2017-09-24T23:06:21+00:00 February 7th, 2009|Reviews|1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Kat Emerick April 24, 2009 at 11:02 am

    I would love to win!

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