The Wrestler | Film Review

Tied to The Tree of Woe
J. Sternberg
Staff Writer

            I'm usually not a fan of the character exploration drama. Let's face it, all too often these films are about someone who could be just like you, rising or falling based on their actions, or lack there of. I feel like I've worn that hat a thousand times, and yeah, its old, not too mention I see people like me who will rise or fall based on their actions every day. I guess I'm just not a people person. Knowing all of this, I still dove off the top headfirst into The Wrestler. I gave it a shot, call it a high risk move if you will, but I'll always give Mickey Rourke, Darren Aronofsky and Marisa Tomei a chance, they don't really fuck up that often. Being huge wrestling fan to boot, it seemed like this could be the film that may sway me on this particular sub-genre. It didn't, but I'd blame that on being stuck in my ways. Besides, this is a film review, not a genre study, and the movie was excellent nonetheless.

            The Wrestler is the story of Randy "The Ram" Robinson, a pro wrestler who's seen better days. In his heyday, The Ram had it all, endorsements, merchandising, fame fortune, and apparently bitches out the wazoo (in the business they call 'em rats). In the present day however, The Ram isn't selling out Madison Square Garden and living the high life, he's stocking shelves at a grocery store and living in a trailer, and only wrestling on weekends at empty VFW halls and local dives. Randy knows his glory days are behind him, but he can't shake that itch, and he seems to know that wrestling is all he really knows. Along the way, we see Randy attempt various "normal people" activities, establish/reestablish "normal people" relationships, and not shockingly at all, consider the possibility of a comeback.

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            I've never been one to spoil the plot for the people, and I'm not going to start now. Its really hard to explain why The Wrestler sinks its hooks in so deep and refuses to let you go. The pacing is very methodical, and serves its master well, never allowing you to get too comfortable with anything going on. That pacing is part of the film's genius, in a way it binds you to The Ram's sad story. He's never really at ease, and nor are you allowed to be, and while that discomfort is often the case from Aronofsky, this film is nothing like his previous work. A lot of film's are referred to as "emotional roller coasters" and while you do get locked in and set on your course, its not long until you see this ride only goes down, slowly. Ultimately, I'd say that its one of the most depressing films I've ever seen, but seeing as that is the intention, I can't throw that in the negative.

            Rourke is incredible in his role, and Marisa Tomei backs him up solidly in her scenes as well, playing Cassidy a single mother/exotic dancer, and possibly Ram's only friend in the world. The action packed and flashy in ring sequences seem almost apologetic for the dark and cumbersome exposition, and seem to show up right when you need them. Make no mistake, these scenes don't take you higher, they just give you a break from the darkness. While they are vibrant, they also seem to ooze a new form of cinematic graphic violence. As the film goes on and you feel more connected to Randy's plight, you can almost feel his pain, physically in the ring and emotionally in the streets. On a side note, I'd like to say that for all the props Rourke got for his actual wrestling training and pulling it off in the ring (alongside actual wrestlers, most of whom are from Ring Of Honor ), I think his portrayal outside of the ring was even more convincing, and I'm very interested in seeing how Sean Penn eeked past him for the Best Actor nod this year.

            In the end, The Wrestler is the story of a man who is lost and confused, and coming to terms with who he is, and what he was meant to do, the cautionary tale of what can happen if you follow your heart a little too far and leave better judgment too far behind. The Wrestler is easily one of the most engrossing films of the year, and I can't recommend it enough, if you can handle it. If you do take my words to heart, make sure you're free from distractions, and let it grab a hold of you, you won't be sorry.

I give The Wrestler 4.5 "RAM JAMS" out of 5: