Theatrical Review: The Wrestler

Randy “The Ram” Robinson is a pro wrestler who’s best days are 20 years past, and now he ekes out a living doing small local shows and working for a store. At one of his shows, he sustains a load of brutal injuries and then has a heart attack and suddenly starts to realize his own mortality. The problem though, Randy is all alone and he desperately doesn’t want to be as he tries to connect with a stripper, Cassidy who’s better days are behind her and his own estranged daughter, who he knows next to nothing about.

The Wrestler is the long-awaited fourth movie from director Darren Aronofsky, winning huge kudos for it’s poignant story and more for it’s performance by lead actor Mickey Rourke playing Robinson. And it’s highly deserving of all of the kudos it’s getting, absolutely no doubt about it.

Aronofsky’s movies are always a visual treat, and with The Wrestler he does something brand new for him, shooting the movie with the raw look of a documentary, but doing it in such a way where often the camera is right behind Rourke as he’s walking into a scene, giving us to the chance to sort’ve be in The Ram’s shoes. And yet at the same time, though we are behind Rourke, his presence is still just as strong as though you’re facing him.

Aronofsky has joked in the past that he’s Barton Fink with this movie (people who’ve seen Barton Fink will know that Im referring to the ideal that the title character was a high-minded writer who was brought to Hollywood to work on something less than his perceived talents), and it is just joking… he treats his subject matter with the same sort of respect that he did with movies like Requiem For A Dream and Pi.

Enough can’t be said about Rourke’s performance, though I have to say, I don’t necessarily see it as a comeback (though people said the same thing when he played Marv in Sin City as well, and that wasn’t that long ago) as I really thought he never left. But still, it’s tremendous work and you can’t help but feel for the guy throughout the movie, he’s obviously got a big heart, and like all of us, he’s made mistakes that he deeply regrets. He’s physically impressive, though also very much broken down. Aronofsky supposedly threw him through the proverbial ringer with this movie and it shows with this heartfelt performance. I think just as impressive though is Marissa Tomei as Cassidy, showing that that Supporting Actress Oscar that she won a few years ago wasn’t just a flash in the pan, and given the right material, as she is here, she’s just as impressive as Rourke.

It’s just terrifically well-made all around. Aronofsky makes all the right choices and ends this film in the best possible way. Word is very good of Rourke getting a Best Actor Oscar nomination for the film, and it’s totally deserved and I hope he wins it. Again, I think this is one of the better releases of 2008, and though the Oscar nominations aren’t out as of yet, it’s not sounding like this will be there for the awards for Best Picture and Best Director, and I just have to wonder how well this placed against the front runners. Regardless of that, this is still a fantastic movie and I can’t recommend it enough…

About Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

18. January 2009 by Darren Goodhart
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