I’m not ruining anything when I tell you that ‘The Wrestler’ is the story of possible redemption for a washed up professional wrestler. Twenty years have passed since he peaked with a victory over his wrestling world rival (His estranged daughter is also probably about 20). He’s living in a trailer, for which he can only sometimes afford the rent, and he spends his time waiting for his next match or "Legends" appearance, playing classic Nintendo games (featuring himself) with the neighborhood kids, or crushing on stripper Marisa Tomei. In other words, he’s a loser – down on his luck, looking for his way back to the top, sure that with another chance, he wouldn't make the same mistakes.
Brought to us by Darren Aronofsky, the man behind ‘Requiem for a Dream’ and ‘Pi,’ two of the more challenging movies to achieve mainstream success in the last decade, ‘The Wrestler’ is at its core a classic sports movie. A hero that’s down and out, who needs to prove to the world (and himself) that he can succeed – it’s a plot that we know well, but because of who's behind the camera, ‘The Wrestler’ has just enough of an edge so we don’t feel like we’ve seen it before.
Mickey Rourke was as good as he was supposed to be, (Maybe even better, because I’ve never seen him in anything before, and his performance is powerful without the kind of ‘comeback story’ reference point all the critics are pointing to) and when I think about this movie, I’ll think of two insightful peeks into his character: There’s a scene where Ram goes to work behind the deli counter, and you see him walk out through the plastic curtains, getting all pumped up as he (and we) imagines the roar of the crowd that awaits him at a wrestling match. And there’s a scene where he stumbles home after the kind of night out that symbolizes a turning point, takes his hearing aid out, and falls into bed.
On the minusing-of-Twix-bars side, I’m pretty over the stripper-with-a-heart-of-gold storyline, and I felt like the storyline with Ram’s daughter was left incomplete. I actually could have done without Evan Rachel Wood altogether, not through any fault of her own, but because the three scenes that she’s in seemed so removd from the rest of the movie.
All in all, it’s a powerful story, and one with more of a kick-to-the-gut ending than you might expect. I am also officially in love with Bruce Springsteen’s song from this movie. (Even though it runs in the credits – I’m always borderline annoyed with this. If it’s so significant, why not have it actually play a part in the film?)
7.5 Twix bars!
Parenthetically, the pictures from the premiere of this movie are cracking me up – First, we have a solo Benjamin McKenzie (Ryan from ‘The OC’), who, as far as I can tell, hasn't completed anything since 'The OC' ended. This is immediately followed by a shot of Jared Leto, Darren Aronofsky and Marisa Tomei (Okay, making more sense)…and then a picture of those three, except Marisa Tomei has been replaced with…Marlon Wayans? This is rounded out by a picture of Mickey Rourke with 50 Cent. Looks like it must have been quite a party!