The Wrestler has been high on the growing list of films I haven’t had time to see yet. I reviewed it on my iPad and ran out of battery just as I was finishing the review. Unfortunately, the WordPress app didn’t autosave so I lost whatever my addled brain wrote at that time. You’ll have to settle for this recollection instead.
The movie was every bit as fantastic as people told me it was. I loved Mickey Rourke’s come-back in Roberto Rodriguez’ adaptation of Sin City (2005). In this movie, he plays once again on his heavily abused body and face (which we get plenty of close-ups on during the fights) to give us a character that is painfully complex. The film takes us behind the scenes of the wrestling industry, ostensibly in New Jersey, where Randy the Ram is limping along towards a heart attack trying to retain his prowess from the golden days when he was a champion on the circuit. The opening credits show a collage of some amazingly crafted newspaper clippings, event tickets and other paraphernalia documenting this period. We actually meet the Ram at a first event where he cuts his face open with a razor blade to give the crowd some of the blood that they are waiting for. The next fight is one of the most gruesome scenes I have ever seen in cinema. There was that scene in Reservoir Dogs where they abused the cop that I still can’t watch without flinching or skipping forward. Well, this one is pretty damn close. I am referring to the Extreme wrestling match where they use real staple guns and real glass. The scene is shot as a flashback, they are taking the staples out of Randy and his mohawked component (a big Randy fan) and as they are yanking out metal and glass, you are treated to the scenes where…well you see what I mean. It is awful. I can’t even imagine how much more gruesome it must have been on a huge screen. But honestly, some amazing cinematography.
The human side of the story is great without necessarily sinking into pathos. Randy has naturally left anything resembling a family life way, way behind him during his partying and wrestling days. Faced with a heart attack and only having one sort-of friend in the stripper played by Marisa Tomei (hubba hubba!!), he tries to reach out to his daughter, is able to spend on real afternoon with her on the boardwalk but then completely blows the whole thing by standing her up because he falls in with some lady fans who wish to party. Anyway, it sounds kind of pathetic but actually is well-written and well-shot. Randy is nearly the perfect anti-hero because we want him to get a fair shake and yet we know damn-well he doesn’t deserve it. Every break life gives him (a new heart, a possibility to renew with his daughter, a steady job at a supermarket, a relationship with Marisa Tomei’s character), he blows in some sort of grandiose manner. He can’t help it. He has so completely assumed the role of Randy the Ram that he can no longer step out of that and live in the real world anymore.
Another nice parallel is drawn with Tomei’s character. I particularly liked a scene where she is doing her striptease and gliding across the dancefloor on her tummy. Her nude back is laced with perspiration reflecting of the stage lights. This immediately reminded me of the images of Randy the Ram flat on his tummy in the ring. Both characters are stuck in these roles that they have chosen. That being said, Tomei has at least made the effort of raising her son (we see him once in the film) but her life is largely consumed and structured by her stripper profession. And unfortunately, when she decides to take a chance with Randy the Ram, well, he decides to go through with a suicidal rematch with the Ayatollah.
If you haven’t seen this film yet, go rent it. Randy needs the money 🙂