The Wrestler

Growing up in the 80s and 90s I was absolutely in love with professional wrestling.  I loved it so much, I told a guidance counselor that I wanted to be a wrestler.  I wanted to be the next Hulk Hogan or Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka.  The theatrics, the violence, and the crazy characters made me a life long fan.  I never became the wrestler I dreamed of being.  In truth, after watching The Wrestler, I’m glad that dream didn’t come true.

The Wrestler is a tale of the eternal struggle to let go.  Micky Rourke (Sin City) stars as Randy “The Ram” Robinson, an aging professional wrestler who can’t let go.  A lifetime ago, Randy was main eventing at Madison Square Garden in front of a sold-out crowd.  Now he’s performing in front of a few hundred people in high school gymnasiums.   He works dead end jobs that barely pay the rent, and his daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) wants nothing to do with him.  Following a match, he suffers a heart attack and is told to never wrestle again. Wrestling is the only thing he knows, and he begins to struggle with a life that doesn’t include the squared circle.  He then turns to an aging stripper named Cassidy (Marisa Tomei), the only person who seems to give him the time of day.  Their relationship would have highs and lows, as each struggle with life and loneliness.  Then a few months would pass before Randy decides to wrestle one last time.  Cassidy pleads for him to not go through with it, but the allure of the bright lights is too much.  Will his body hold up?  Or would he die doing what he loves most in life?

Darren Aronofsky  (Requiem for a Dream) continues his trend as one of the most daring directors in Hollywood.  His movies seem to pull no punches and always present an unflinching look into the soul of a damaged human being.  He has pretty much resurrected the career of Rourke, whom gives one of the best performances of the year, if not ever.  He truly makes you believe he is “The Ram” in every second of the film.  Drawing from his own experiences, Rourke’s performance is extremely personal, and at times painful to watch. Tomei (What Women Want) is also fantastic as a stripper trying to make it in the world.  The movie is a departure from Aronofsky’s other films, but the themes seem intact.  His movies seem to always show the dark side of addiction.  Wether it be drugs, love, or professional wrestling, Aronofsky is a master at dissecting a mind consumed.

The Wrestler gives the viewer a chance to pull back the curtain and see the real world of professional wrestling.  There’s nothing fake about the bruises sustained to the body and the mind.  If the documentary Beyond the Mat was a peek behind the scenes, The Wrestler is our pass to go further.  The glamor of wrestling easily overshadows the harsh reality of the warriors ravaged by years of abuse.  Sadly, many of wrestling’s greatest superstars of the past have fallen down the same path as “The Ram.” It’s a hard story to be told, and even harder to comprehend. I will always be a fan of wrestling, but after watching The Wrestler, I doubt I’ll ever dream like I once did.

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