Review: The Wrestler (2008)


Who says wrestling is fake?

Written By: Robert D. Siegel
Directed By: Darren Aronofsky

Anyone who has ever been a fan or professional wrestling has always been aware of the duality of the spectacle and the reality. What we see on our TV screens and in the ring is never the truth, because what goes on behind the scenes makes the soap opera we witness first hand pale in comparison. I was a long time pro wrestling fan that only stopped watching, because I stopped caring, a few years ago. The Wrestler presents the duality of the pro wrestling world in perfect fashion. It should connect with anyone that has ever been a fan of pro wrestling and was honest with him or herself about all the theater entailed.

Beneath all the glitz and the glamor there is the reality that most fans spend their entire lives denying, the pitiful nature of the wrestlers and the task they perform. Wrestlers are good guys and gals, they are also pricks and bitches. They are people, the same as you or I, but fans choose not to see that, they only see the talented performer, the baby face, the heel, the wrestler with no ability, etc.. But, The Wrestler shows us just how full of life, how real those performers can be. They can be loud and boastful, but they can also be soft spoken and shy. They suffer from performance anxiety, they are both family and enemy to one another. Beneath the single image we are shown of them in the “fake” world there is the layered human being that exists in the real world.

The Wrestler comes down to that one idea, existing. How does one get by when the limelight is gone, when their skills are leaving them, when the one thing they know is no longer available to them? How does someone who is fake for a living exist in the real world? Randy “The Ram” Robinson says it best when he tells Pam/Cassidy that he never gets hurt in the ring, it’s only out there in the real world that he gets hurt. Randy tries to exist in the real world, he is affable, and he is a nice guy. But, he has his demons and his world of pro wrestling where nothing can hurt him. Yet, he is his own paradox because the thing in life that hurts him the most is pro wrestling. It is his drive to compete, his attraction to the lifestyle and his inability to disassociate from that world and settle into the real world that causes him the most pain. There isn’t such a thing as hope in The Wrestler, there’s only pain and the job.

Randy “The Ram” Robinson is every story I’ve ever heard about any of my favorite wrestlers rolled up into one. The torture they put their bodies through, and the thankless hours on small shows when they have been forgotten by the big leagues. The never ending hope that they will hit it big again and the hell that is their personal life because of how much pro wrestling demands from them will be assuaged for just the tiniest of moments. This is also true of what I have heard of Mickey Rourke and that is why he is excellent as Randy. Randy is very much the story of Mr. Rourke as an actor and how torturous of an existence he has led. He pours himself into Randy so easily because he is Randy, he understands where he’s gone wrong, he knows he’ll go wrong again and he wishes that he wouldn’t, but he doesn’t know how to stop himself. There is nothing sadder than the man who knows what is wrong with himself and wants to fix it but is so weak that he can’t. Randy or Mickey Rourke, you tell me who The Wrestler was actually about?

I’d like to make sure Marisa Tomei gets her due, because she deserves it. She has spent the majority of her career known as the girl who was one and done with My Cousin Vinny. Part of that is her fault for dubious film choices, but some of the blame also falls on movie goers. Every year Miss Tomei blossoms into a better and more refined actress right before our eyes. She is the very definition of a learned actress, she has had to work to become the choice actress she now is. You top that off with the fact that as she ages she appears to become more beautiful every day and you have a lady that needs to be recognized as the years come to pass.

The Wrestler is a film that touches you, is tragic, scary and most of all, realistic. There’s a lot to be learned from the story of Randy “The Ram” Robinson, just as there is a lot to be learned from the life of a pro wrestler. The Wrestler presents us with two brilliant hours of cinema, take the time to check out Darren Aronofsky’s latest masterwork and see Mickey Rourke in the role of a lifetime, it’s worth checking out.



Bill Thompson

One response to “Review: The Wrestler (2008)

  1. Pingback: Retro Week In Cinema: September 12-18, 2013 | Bill's Movie Emporium

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