Wednesday, 19 January 2011

The Wrestler

Year: 2008
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Screenplay: Robert D. Siegel
Starring: Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood, Ernest Miller
Running Time: 109 minutes
Genre: Drama, sports,

Summary: In the late 1980s, Robin Ramzinski (Rourke) was a top professional wrestler under the stage name Randy "The Ram" Robinson. An icon to millions and at the peak of his career.
Twenty years later, Randy lives in a trailer park which he can barely afford, works part time in a supermarket and spends much of his time taking part in low paid wrestling matches at the weekend on the independent promotion circuit. However he is getting to the age where his body cannot take the intense regular physical punishment. Randy agress to a twentieth anniversary come-back match against his best known opponent "The Ayatollah" (Miller). However, he suffers a severe heart-attack and is told by the doctor that he must give up wrestling if he wants to live. Randy tries to rebuild his life by attempting to reconcile with his estranged daughter, Stephanie (Wood), and striking up a tentative relationship with an ageing stripper, Cassidy (Tomei). However he finds it increasingly difficult to turn his back on the one thing that gave his life meaning.

Opinions: The exaggerated world of professional wrestling, with it's mix of theatre and sport, is a rich source for drama. An interesting aspect in the film is when the wrestlers are shown before and after the match chatting away and being the best of friends, and yet inflicting serious violence on each other in the ring. Most people know that wrestling is pretty much fake but here, although the wrestlers discuss the matches beforehand and tell their opponents what they're planning, and choreograph the match, the injuries and pain are all too real. However the main character in the film is a man who is basically past his time. His career and life peaked twenty years before the movie begins and he has spent the intervening time trying to keep hold of it. He even tries to retain his appearance of twenty years before including his long, dyed blonde hair and even with the wrestling, the one thing that really mattered in his life, his name and career is built on what he achieved twenty years before. His girlfriend, Cassidy, is ina similar situation. While she is still attractive she knows full well that she is getting too old to get the customers.
Mickey Rourke pretty much owns the film. He is the focus of pretty much every scene and gives a superb portrayal of a fundematally decent but also lost and scared man who knows that his time is running out but does not know what to do about it. He is complemented by a powerful perfomance from Marisa Tomei.
The film is well made, with the wrestling scenes in particular being full of kinetic energy. It also features some striking footage of the derelict, urban landscapes where it's set. There's nothing romantic here, just small, sad characters searching for hope and redemption in a bleak, decaying world. On the minus side, however, it is fair to say that there aren't many surprises in the film, and it's not hard to see where it's heading fairly early on.
However it is worth watching, being entertaining and full of great performances.

Marisa Tomei and Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler

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