The Wrestler – Rourkes Return

The Wrestler – Rourkes Return

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  1. Mickey Rourke has been acting since the 70s but really got busy with a lot of work in the late 90s and early 2000s.  Then, after doing Tony Scott’s Domino in 2005, he didn’t get much until Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler in 2008.  It’s an interesting role for him because he plays a wrestler whose career is pretty much over and is trying to make a comeback… much like his acting career.  It certainly worked for Rourke’s career because after The Wrestler, he was in four films in 2010 including box office heavyweights Iron Man 2 and The Expendables.  That may have been because of the Best Lead Actor Oscar nomination that The Wrestler got him.

    What is it about?

    As the title suggests The Wrestler is about a wrestler.  More specifically, it is about an aging wrestler named Robin Randzowski (Mickey Rourke) who goes by "The Ram."  The Ram was a big celebrity in the 80s but is too old and out of shape to wrestle like he used to; so now he just wrestles at small venues on the weekends and works part-time at a grocery store during the week.  What little money he does make, he usual spends at a local strip club where he becomes friends with a stripper named Cassidy (Marisa Tomei) who, like The Ram, is past her prime.

    When The Ram agrees to a 20th anniversary match against his old nemesis "The Ayatollah" (Ernest Miller), he steps up his training, takes steroids, and takes on some more intense matches including a hardcore match that gives The Ram a heart attack.  He survives it, but decides to retire.  He takes up a full time shift in the deli, tries to hang out with Cassidy more (even outside of the club), and ends up (at Cassidy’s suggestion) trying to reconnect with his adult daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) whom he had left when she was a child.  Everything falls apart for The Ram, though, when Cassidy rejects his romantic advances and he turns to cocaine for solace which makes him miss a dinner with his daughter.  Then, when a fan recognizes him as the wrestler form the 80s, he loses it and turns back to wrestling because it’s all he knows.

    He does the final match against The Ayatollah and, during it, starts to feel the onset of chest pain and becomes woozy but won’t take the chance to end the match.  Instead, he climbs to the top rope to perform a "Ram Jam" which is his signature move.  As he climbs, the crowd cheers, then he jumps.

    Is it any good?

    The Wrestler is gritty, realistic, and somewhat depressing but is very good.  It’s about a broken down man who desperately needs a second chance in life, with his daughter, etc.  Anyone can get behind that because everyone can use a second chance once in a while.

    The thing that stands out the most in this film is the suberb acting by its two leads.  Rourke makes you root for him even though he has done some very bad things in his life.  He brings a vulnerability to The Ram that you may not expect since he is so big and physically strong.  Tomei gives a similar performance as her character is in a similar boat as The Ram.  All she knows is stripping but she’s getting a little too old to really succeed in that profession.  She has to stay, though, to provide for her son.  While this kind of character is rather cliche, Tomei brings a sweetness to the role that you can really connect to.  She also makes you feel good that she is willing to help The Ram put his life back together but you understand when she won’t accept his romantic advances.  It’s a thin line to walk that Tomei does very well.

    Nolan’s Grade:  A

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