FILM REVIEW: The Wrestler

The Wrestler
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
(Fox Searchlight)

In the world of celebrity it’s said the bigger you are the harder you fall and in the early 80’s there was no one bigger than professional wrestlers. This sentiment is the basis for Darren Aronofsky’s new film The Wrestler which focuses on the story of fictional powerhouse pro wrestler Randy “Ram” Robinson (Mickey Rourke) twenty years or so after his prime. The film follows the Ram as he tries to pull his life together while working poorly promoted local matches, VFW autograph signings, and a part time job at the local supermarket. The Ram develops a relationship with a stripper, Cassidy (Marisa Tomei), who is also past her prime and finds herself at a turning point in her life. Part of the magic of the movie is the clever juxtaposition of the world of exotic dancing and professional wrestling, both, which glorify a false sense of glamour. The performances by Rourke and Tomei are truly remarkable and the depth and subtlety of the characters make the story relatable to nearly any audience. The film works ultimately because of the strength of these two main characters and the plot becomes almost secondary at times. There are some issues with the film such as the Ram’s underdeveloped relationship with Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood), the daughter he deserted years ago and tries to win back, but they are minor. The film does a superb job in illuminating the nature of performing and the painful real world of professional wrestling with all its inner workings. With all of it’s unflinching realism and the caliber of the performances, I’d be surprised not to see a few Oscar nominations here even if it doesn’t play to wide audiences.

The Wrestler will be released in theaters on December 17, 2008

Tim Needles

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