The Wrestler (2008) Directed by Darren Aronofsky
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"I'm an old broken down piece of meat and I deserve to be all alone, I just don't want you to hate me." Randy 'The Ram' Robinson
Randy 'The Ram' Robinson (Mickey Rourke) was a big star of the wrestling ring, back in the eighties. Now, he is over the hill, broken down, working high school gyms, and VFW halls, and dreaming about the glory days.
He doesn't have much in his life. Work is uncertain, and not always enough to make the ends meet; sometimes he works part time at the local supermarket just to get the money to get back in to his trailer. He has a girlfriend, Cassidy (Marisa Tomei). Well, their dates consist of sixty dollar lap dances at the local strip club, Cheeks.
Randy spends his days working out, or working the loading dock, and his weekends he spends working the crowd. Well loved by the fans and his coworkers, he and his friends are there to put on a good show for the fans.
Of course, at this level, the fans want more for their money, and some of his matches aren't just a few bounces off the turn buckle and a cut with a razor, no, they are matches with chairs, and tables, and crutches wrapped in barbed wire...there was one match where his opponent used a staple gun on him. A Staple Gun! This is not entertainment, it's almost torture porn!
And yet, that is his life. That is what keeps him sleeping indoors, and not in his van.
Cassidy is the bright spot in his life. If only she would...not charge. But it is good for a man to have someone is happy to see him.
But when ever he tries to move the relationship up, well, she is skilled at deflection. You learn to be when your job is gyrating one inch above a man's groin, and he can't touch you. Yet, she sees in him a kindred spirit; she is not eighteen. Her child is halfway there. She is aging in a profession that worships youth. It is scary, and frustrating, and humiliating. And she recognizes that quality in The Ram. They are both who-ring themselves out to an audience that does not care about the real them, but has their own fantasy about who they are. Randy The Ram is a high flying Face with a can of whup@$$ ready for the heel. Cassidy is a smoking hot seductress, and not a mom.
The problem is that his poster stays the same. He needs more and more tape before every match. His action figure has the same huge guns; he needs more and more steroids to maintain his (phenomenal) physique. I will warn you. When he injects the steroids into his buttocks, I swear, I thought for a second he was wearing leather pants. Long bleached blond hair, tan from a can and long sessions in a light bed, muscles by chemistry, skin like a tan orange rind. He looks ROUGH!
And then he has a heart attack. And a bypass.
And you know what his doctor says about wrestling.
So what does a washed up wrestler make of his life? What can he? Cassidy still has the ‘no-dating-the-customers' rule. His daughter, well, his daughter feels about him exactly the way she should. And what else is there in his life? Playing 64 bit Atari wrestling games with the kids in the trailer park? Working in the deli at the grocery store? He spent his entire life becoming Randy ‘The Ram' and he does not have the least clue how to be anything else.
This is not a happy movie. It is Depressing! This is Mississippi Delta, my woman shot my dog blues depressing.
And it is good. It is so phenomenally on target. Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei have both been nominated for Oscars, and believe me, they earned the nod. After the first few minutes, Rourke faded into nothing, and there was only ‘The Ram.' Clueless and ineffectual, a broken down piece of meat, beaten down by too many chairs to the head, and too many paychecks up the nose, and too many memories that are far happier places than where he is today. It is a masterful performance.
And Marisa as Cassidy. The last bloom of beauty, beginning to wither, still gyrating for a crowd that is becoming increasingly bored. She recognizes Randy for the problem he is becoming, but can not give him up, because he still pays, and she needs to see the desire in his eyes. She does not want to lead him on, and she does not want to loose him. In her own way, she is going through the same crisis he is. At first the clients stop paying attention. Then it gets ugly; they pity you. And she wants out before that happens. Marisa brings the right mixture of professional passion and jaded ennui and genuine desperation to the role. Incredibly subtle, she nails the role, playing it both over the top, and with a delicate touch.
The movie is austere as the subject matter. The "sets" are the depressing settings of poverty; the dingy dilapidated trailer in a dingy dilapidated trailer park, the back corridors of supermarkets and high school gymnasiums. The music only builds this. Mostly eighties hair bands, all playing in the real world, no score, no mood melody.
Shot in 35 days on a shoestring budget, the movie received several gratis boosts; neither Mickey Rourke nor Bruce Springsteen received any salary for their parts in production, and Axl Rose donated "Sweet Child of Mine" free of charge. Two days after it finished and was in the can, it won the Golden Lion Award for Best Picture at the Venice Film Festival. Mickey Rourke was favored for best actor, but a film can't win both awards.
Deeply disturbing look into the depressing world of faded glory, this movie is still amazing. You have to see this. It will blow you away.
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Movie Mood: Serious Movie
Viewing Method: Other
Film Completeness: Looked complete to me.