The Wrestler

Cast: Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, and Evan Rachel Wood

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Writer: Scott Franklin

Production Company: Protozoa Pictures

Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Length: 115 minutes

Rating: R

The Wrestler is an average film enhanced by an amazing performance by Mickey Rourke.  The character of Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson is a role of a lifetime for Rourke. If the film was on par with its leading man then it would have been astonishing, but it was not.

Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson was at the top of the professional wresting world in the 1980’s. He was famous, rich, and his life was a nonstop party. Then times changed, wrestling lost its popularity, and Randy grew older. Before he knew it he was broke, on the brink of retirement, and living alone in a trailer park.

Reassessing his life, Randy decides to reconnect with his neglected daughter, Stephanie (Wood). Stephanie is an independent college student who wants nothing to do with her loser father. Giving in Stephanie decides to grant Randy one last chance, but of course he forgets their planned dinner date. Instead he spends the night getting high and laid.

To drown his sorrows Randy visits local stripper Cassidy (Tomei). Randy and Cassidy have a unique connection forged by their fight of the progression of time. Cassidy has been around the block several times which has earned her a tough exterior. Every time Randy tries to get close to her she pushes him away with the “I don’t date customers” line.

Seemingly alone with declining health, Randy finds himself at an impasse. Should he retire from wrestling and focus on a normal life while working on building relationships with his loved ones? Or should he continue to do what he knows, loves, and makes him feel good?

The Wrestler is dominated by the fantastic performance of its leading man, Mickey Rourke. He brought raw power and emotion to his role. He will make you laugh, cry, and feel sorry for him. His physical transformation is also spectacular from his fake tan, phony long blonde hair, and the twenty plus pounds of muscle he gained. This will be his career defining role.

Before I saw the film I was told Marisa Tomei’s character was as good as and even better than her Oscar winning performance in My Cousin Vinny. I was disappointed. Marisa’s character just came off as a trailer trash bitch. She lacked the sparkle and charisma she conveyed in her previous performances. She was not enjoyable to watch and I did not feel a connection with her plight. I also never need to see Tomei naked again; this film has met my already extremely low quota.

The Wrestler is an independent film and boy did it feel like it. The film was shot with a hand held camera which added to a second-rate quality. For a large amount of the time the camera is following Randy from behind so all that audience sees is his long flowing fake blonde hair. Randy’s hair should receive a supporting role credit. Another cheapness factor was the lack of lighting. In several scenes it was so dark nothing can be made out. The lack of lighting was annoying and distracting.

The story was well researched (drugs in the gym and the staging of the wrestling events) adding to the films realism, but the story was lacking in several other areas. It was slow and predictable at times. It felt like the writer was wasting time instead of striving to make a point. The film was also marked with redundancies. As I mentioned before Tomei’s character was naked more than clothed. I was thinking, alright already, I get it, she is a stripper. It also seemed the writer and director was trying to make up for the boring parts by shocking the audience over and over again. This film is based on real life, but some of the things Randy did in reaction to stress were just unbelievable.

The Wrestler is not a feel good movie or an escape film. This film has all the pain, hatred, loneliness, and sorrow that real life is made of. Experiencing all of these hard feelings is worth the chance to watch one of the best acting performances in several years.