I could care less about professional wrestling, but with that said, I find THE WRESTLER to be a profoundly affecting and nuanced film about how we define ourselves and deal with regret.
Randy “The Ram” Robinson (Mickey Rourke) was at the height of his fame in the 1980’s but now two decades later he can barely pay the rent for his mobile home. The years have been hard on his body but it hasn’t kept him from giving his fans 100% every time he steps into the ring.
But after so much abuse, his body gives in and after he suffers a heart attack, he is warned that getting back in the ring would be a death sentence. Realizing that he’s only on top when he’s performing, he gets some advice from Cassidy (Marisa Tomei), a stripper he has become emotionally attached to. She pushes him to try to reconnect with his estranged daughter Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood).
At first Stephanie wants nothing to do with him, as he wasn’t there when she needed him, but tentatively comes around when he makes the effort. But Randy is a broken man and he soon finds that some things are beyond repair.
THE WRESTLER was a comeback performance for Rourke and it easy to make parallels between his promising film career and that of Randy’s wrestling. It’s beautifully subtle and understated and easy to see why it was highly acclaimed.
Writer/Director Darren Aronofsky does a terrific job of letting the viewer into Randy’s world in a very realistic manner. This isn’t the flash and pomp and circumstance that one might expect from a wrestling movie. It’s the day-to-day grind of people on their way down mixed with others with dreams of matching their hero’s success even though the true reality of their possible future is staring them right in the face.
If you’re a fan of unconventional character studies then I can’t recommend THE WRESTLER enough. It truly tugs at the heartstrings and finds the humanity in the midst of personal tragedy.
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