How many films have you seen that stick with you long after the credits have rolled?
If you’ve lived a bit of life, The Wrestler is likely to be one of those movies, for it’s about a man who does what he does because he’s always done it, but life’s big picture is starting to pass him by. The debate will linger as to whether Mickey Rourke should have won an Academy Award for this role, for few performances are so in sync with the person playing them.
Rourke is The Ram and The Ram is Rourke.
Randy (“The Ram”) is a wrestler who had his heyday in the 80s. But today, he can barely pay the rent on his shabby trailer home. Still, Randy continues to go to the tanning salon, keeps his long blonde locks dyed, works out and uses steroids to bulk up. Who knows what Rourke, a former boxer, had to do to get himself into this kind of pulverizing shape, but whatever he did, it works. He does all this for a few minutes of glory-as the former arenas have now become blue collar gyms-yet the pain, seen through a series of vivid scenes involving chairs, staple guns and razor blades-is all too real.
The Ram isn’t getting any younger either. Though he keeps cranking such 80s heavy metal relics as Ratt and Cinderella in his car, his day job at a local grocery store isn’t really paying the bills. He’s at the point where he longs for an attachment to someone, but his daughter Stephanie (a memorable turn by Evan Rachel Wood), may or may not be living an alternative lifestyle and in no uncertain terms doesn’t appreciate her absentee father suddenly dropping by.
About the only thing that brings him hope on a continual basis is the sight of an aging stripper named Cassidy (Marisa Tomei) at a non-descript New Jersey strip club.
Severe events will force Randy to reassess his life, But there aren’t any real Rocky moments here, only small triumphs. What makes the film so effective is that if mirrors Rourke’s personal life story. Director Darren Aronofsky also does a superb job of peeling away wrestling’s perceived glamour to show the hard work, fakery and crippling injuries that really take place. But the film belongs to Rourke. This is his comeback role and he’s riveting for every single minute of it.