Every so often a TV show or movie comes along which seems tailor made for me. Often times that is a recipe for disappointment, but not in the case of The Wrestler. It has received strong praise from every corner, including rave reviews from Nerd Lunch favorites Nick Digilio and RD Reynolds. Like RD I am a long time wrestling fan who has also experienced some of craziness that is the indie wrestling scene, so I couldn’t help but feel a special connection to this film.
The Wrestler tells the story of Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson, a professional wrestler who was at the top of the heap in the 80s and twenty years later is dealing with the negative consequences of that lifestyle. The uninitiated may not believe it, but the script is amazingly accurate in its depiction of pro wrestling. In his review, RD sums up the unfortunate truth this way:
It’s hard to explain that there are men (and women) in this business who flourish, who can perform in sold out arenas and be in videogames and have kids wearing their t-shirts…and just a few years later, be completely destitute, and with no real means of making a fraction of the income they made previously.
And more than that, having no clue what to do the rest of their lives.
Unfortunately wrestlers aren’t the only ones who use themselves up to make a living and arrive at a dead end too soon. From the wrestling ring to the strip club to the trailer park, The Wrestler depicts this reality better than anything I’ve ever seen.
The performances by Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei are completely convincing. Simply put, they are Randy and Cassidy. Both Rourke and Tomei convey the real pain and aspirations of the characters. Fantastic and moving.
The were a few elements of the cinematography (like the flashbacks of the hardcore match, for example) that rubbed me the wrong way, but overall it is quite good. The gritty film looks like shot on video footage and lends to the realistic portrayal. Best of all, the wrestling matches are shot in a way that makes them very engaging and feel different than watching wrestling on TV.
This is not the most uplifting movie, but I should be more than ready for a second viewing by the time the DVD hits stores.