Film Review: The Wrestler

Newsroom 30/03/2009 | 15:52

Director: Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood
On at: : Hollywood Multiplex,
The Light

The story is delivered through no-frills, pared down filmmaking, which often has the feel of documentary. An opening montage of newspaper cuttings, match tickets and radio voiceovers conveys the heady heights that Randy the Ram's (Rourke) career reached back in the 1980s. It's all a long way from his current condition – living in a trailer park, estranged from his family, and eking out a living through a combination of the amateur wrestling circuit and packing boxes at the local supermarket.
Despite the good-natured banter between the wrestlers (many of whom are played by genuine practitioners), Randy's only real friend is Cassidy (Marisa Tomei), a dancer from a local strip club. The similarities between their lives are obvious. Both earn their living in ways that are essentially fake – Randy's fights are choreographed by the combatants, and the desire Cassidy affects to show for her loserish redneck punters is equally phoney. Both are struggling on in bodies that are too old for their trade. Both have identity issues symbolised by their use of stage names – Cassidy is really Pam, who sees herself as a mom, not a stripper, while Randy is trying to escape his humdrum life as Robin Ramzinski. Further, real-life parallels can be drawn with Rourke himself, whose own career was in the doldrums before the success of this picture restored his luster.
The film doesn't shy away from revealing the bleakness of Randy's New Jersey world, the humiliation of the washed-up star getting locked out of his trailer for rent defaults, and begging his smart alec boss for extra hours. Nor does it gloss over the brutality of his sport. If you don't wince during Randy's second fight, a hardcore wrestling bout featuring all manner of grisly makeshift weapons, you're not human. Despite – or most probably because of – the barrage of drugs he's taking to keep his aging torso in shape, Randy's doctor advises him to retire. But will patching up his relationship with his daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) and pursuing romance with Cassidy be enough to sustain him, without the thrill of the ring and roar of the crowd?
It's a clich

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