Randy “The Ram” Robinson is a professional wrestler way past his prime. Twenty years to be exact. And for a profession that requires dexterity and rather high pain endurance, twenty years past your prime isn’t really somewhere you want to be. The old age has surely taken its toll for the Ram.
Having only known how to wrestle for most of his prime, Randy (Mickey Rourke) found himself from his superstar heyday with video-games, action figures, and Madison Square Garden performance to his name to a lonely, broke, but still a professional wrestler albeit traveling from one independent wrestling arena to another. Sometimes he sleeps in his car, tried to get a hold to a various measly job at the local store, and at some point diagnosed and suggested by a doctor to stop wrestle or risk death. He found console, or at least tried to found one in Cassidy (Marisa Tomei) a stripper, whose life almost mirrored Randy, in which she found out that the time was against her as her regular customers quickly became former customers when the younger strippers made their due time.
The Wrestler is a personal film, a kind of film that didn’t bother too hard to try to wrap its conflicts, but rather a kind of film that merely looks into its character and walks with him as he deals with his surrounding within the segment of his life chosen for the film. Shortly, this film is what you would called as a “character-driven film.” As such, this film would only be as good as the actor behind the character and with everybody said that this film marks the powerful comeback of Mickey Rourke, having won the Best Actor at Golden Globe and nominated at Academy Awards, there’s no denying the fact that one who claimed to enjoy a character-driven film would be pleased, or at least enjoyed the time they had spent with this film.
The film also gave an ample looks behind the scene of a professional wrestling industry and in my opinion, these scenes are superbly executed in a way to give our lead character a more edge. Often, professional wrestling is considered as nothing more but a performance with most (probably all) of its matches are predetermined up to its very finer points (i.e. “So I jumped off the rope, and you slam me with your move”, that sort of thing). Sure, they are fake, but the pain and blood sometimes are real, and the acrobatic moves are impossible without proper training and skills. Here, we see that these Wrestlers when they’re behind the stage, discussing moves and all, have nothing against each other but a total respect and that, in my opinion, elevates the character from a cardboard persona buffed up with steroids to a complete three dimensional character, lovable, yet sad and even pathetic, sometime.
Rightly so, the films is always and looks into Randy Robinson as an estranged and lonely person, an awkward to the society as he tries to relives his former glory and only knowing how to wrestle. There’s a scene where I could feel his humiliation and its almost unbearable to watch and there’s also a scene where I saw him as a pathetic being. Randy Robinson is nearly as complete as any three dimensional character I’ve ever seen in a film for a long time, and Mickey Rourke bought this character with a grit and precision.
Darren Aronovsky’s method of filming this film is almost felt like a documentary as he, often enough to gets noticed, follows our characters right behind him (or her) at a pace and follows him around. Another time though, his camera would sometimes pick a spot and let us observe from a far. I don’t know about you, but these techniques (added to the bleak feels seeping out of the non-existent picturesque New Jersey area) give me more than enough time to get acquainted with Randy and even more, cares about him so as when the film approaches its end, as I saw through Randy’s eyes, I just sat there with a silent apprehension.
I had a legit doubt that I wouldn’t felt this “moved” had Randy been portrayed by someone else rather than Mickey Rourke. And yes, he is that great in this film. Marisa Tomei is also giving her all in here with Aonovsky requires his strippers to actually naked (unlike some certain film about stripper that still puts some clothes on its actress. Kudos for both Mr.Aronovsky and Ms.Tomei for keeping this rule-of-thumb about strippers under check). Finally, Evan Rachel Wood, who in my opinion, a rising young actress worthy to watch (and a decent singer, as well) also has her own spotlight to show some warm, and eventually sad emotion arc to the life of Randy Robinson as his estranged daughter.
My rating: ***1/2 / **** Overall, this film is sad but without being overboard melancholy. I particularly loved the final scene, right before the end credit rolls (and to think that Bruce Springsteen doesn’t even gets nominated for Best Song). It’s a complete tale, sad, yet, I was so moved that the word “respect” came first to mind had I asked to describe Randy Robinson in one word.