The Wrestler

The Wrestler

The Wrestler

directed by Darren Aronofsky

starring Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood

Fox Searchlight

Everybody complains about wrestling being fake, but no one grouses when Hamlet gets up for a bow at the end of his little play. While the winner and loser may be predetermined in any given wrestling bout, it’s still a form of theater and it sells more tickets than Shakespeare. Wrestling offers clearly defined good and evil, lots of chair-over-head action, and at the end, catharsis. What more could you want?

Randy “The Ram” Robinson (Rourke) worked the squared circle for his whole life, but his rock star lifestyle is catching up with him. His bones hurt, his daughter Stephanie (Wood) hates him, and the steroids are about to knock out the old ticker. A broken glass and staple gun match with the Neckro Butcher (Dylan Keith Summers) pushes his heart over the edge, leaving him with a bypass and no future prospects other than work at the deli counter. The deli resides in a particularly depressing fortress of a grocery store, and things have gotten so bad, even his stripper girlfriend Cassidy (Tomei) won’t put out for him. When he needs her most, she falls back on some sort of stripper code of honor like “Never date a customer.”

When you’re not cringing, crying, or laughing, The Wrestler takes you into the very minor leagues of the wrestling world. These hardscrabble enthusiasts perform in civic centers, VFW halls, and even the occasional parking lot. The players all know each other, and without some pre-show choreography, the injuries would be much worse. You really CAN kill someone by jumping off the top rope and putting an elbow in their throat. Rourke captures the bravado and honor in the face of joint dislocation and no medical insurance, and his failed attempt to reconcile with Stephanie drips with irony as they walk the abandoned winter boardwalk of the Jersey shore. Tomei’s stripper finds sympathy as well, she has kids and no husband and her looks are fading and her honor is at stake as well. When she finally comes to see a match, it’s too little too late, and Rourke has no options left but to take one final leap. New Jersey never looked so depressing.

The Wrestler:

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