#244 The Wrestler (2008)

The_Wrestler_poster

109 Minutes

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Writer: Robert D. Siegel

Cast: Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood

Storyline: “A faded professional wrestler must retire, but finds his quest for a new life outside the ring a dispiriting struggle.” IMDB

Disposition

American Girl:

I know very little about this movie, and I have never seen it before.  I recall that it may have won some awards.  I think Mickey Rourke is the lead actor, but in the few preview pictures I have seen in relation to this movie he looks unrecognizable to me.  This could have a large part as to why he may have been up for an academy award!  (I am sure Brit Boy will figure out if this movie was actually up for any academy awards, and we can determine if it is all just a figment of my imagination….)  Needless to say, I am looking forward to watching this movie.  I get a bit excited whenever a movie I have never seen makes the list…

Brit Boy:

Your memories do not fail you yet again American Girl, “The Wrestler” was nominated for 2 academy awards in 2009 for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Rourke) and Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Tomei). Although neither won losing out to Sean Penn (Milk) and Penelope Cruz (Vicky Christina Barcelona), it’ll be interesting to see if either of these films make the list. Whilst trawling through data on the 81st Academy Awards I find it interesting to note that Robert Downey Jr., also missed out on an award this year for his role in Tropic Thunder (all be it to the late and extremely great Heath Ledger), why is this interesting? Well just because Downey Jr. and Rourke appeared together the following year in Iron Man 2 (one of my favorite films, in spite of its flaws…..)

I had watched this film a couple of years ago and remember the bleakness of the cinematography but not much else, I was intrigued to watch this again with a fresh viewpoint.

Set the Scene

I am actually now living in Michigan with Brit Boy, and we are expecting our first child together.  The cross country move and current children have preoccupied a lot of our time recently so we have not devoted the time to our blogs that we use to.  Now that things are calming down and settling back into a routine in our household, Brit Boy and I decided to curl up and watch this movie together one night.  It still seems such a luxury to actually watch a movie with him, it’s the simple pleasures in life sometimes….

Final Cut

When the opening credits begin my first thought was that it seemed really dated and cheap! Not knowing what this movie was actually about it put me off slightly, however, looking back it fit the tone of the movie perfectly.  The movie is about a has-been pro-wrestler, who was on top of the world in the 1980’s.  It takes place 20 years after Randy, “The Ram’s” golden years and those 20 years have clearly not been kind to our lead character.

The opening credits for me brought back exciting memories of watching the stars of World Of Sport Wrestling duke it out on a Saturday afternoon in the 80’s, my favorite being Big Daddy and his nemesis Giant Haystacks. Then more recently (ok American girl it was the early nineties…) watching the WWF with the Ultimate Warrior (not sure if Randy the Ram was based upon him or not), the British Bulldogs and many more of the American Wrestlers. I loved the soap opera style to this wrestling and was instantly sucked in. I even have some trading cards hidden away somewhere…..

The Ram has a series of ailments, including a hearing aid, heart problems, pains throughout his body, and he’s on a cocktail of narcotics which he obtains illegally.  He lives in a trailer which he can be barely afford and his only “friend” seems to be a stripper at the local bar, Cassidy (played by Tomei).  While Randy can’t seem to make ends meet to afford a place to live, he does manage to always come up with the funds for his $60 private lap dances from Cassidy.  It is all incredibly depressing.

I agree it is depressing but it also shows the stark reality in which some of the stars from yesteryear have had to live, a time when stars were idolized rapidly and massively but also dropped by the wayside just as quickly without the financial safety net.

mickey_rourke_in_the_wrestler

Through it all however, there is an endearing quality about “The Ram”.  He does seem to be a giant screw up, but underneath it all I feel there is a good guy, as evident by the fact that all of the neighborhood children are constantly clamoring for his attention.  At points throughout the movie we are introduced to The Ram’s estranged daughter (played by Evan Rachel Wood).  Throughout it all, as a viewer I wanted Ram to turn around his life. To end up happy, to find a way out of the “wrestling” lifestyle. Unfortunately, it never really got there, and yet again, I think I kept waiting for my Disney ending (which never came).

The cinematography was just as amazing as I remember, using a fly on the wall documentary style you really felt you were following around the incredibly lovable but severely flawed Ram. From his day job (in order to pay rent) to his regular Saturday night bouts with his compadres of yesteryear in sleezy social clubs or school gymnasiums. The wrestling was certainly real and not glamorized in any way, I’d always known that wrestling was a “show” but this really gave clarity to the whole industry and made me respect some of my childhood heroes even more, for being the athletes and above all performers that they were.

I can understand how this movie received such acclaim.  It is shot almost entirely in what I would consider a documentary format.  You feel as if a camera is following around this character as part of his real day to day life.  I never felt that the movie was even scripted.  It flowed together perfectly, nothing was glamorized and it all seemed incredibly realistic.  There were actually very few characters in the film which seemed to add to the intensity of Rourke’s character.  This could have been a risky move if Rourke had not done such a brilliant job with this portrayal. If Rourke would have slipped up, no other characters could have shared the burden of the movie’s success.  With superb acting ability Rourke mastered it, and this is one of those rare movies where the actor clearly became the character they portrayed.  Rourke never broke character, which is a credit to not only his acting ability but also the brilliant directing and editing.

You make an incredibly good point here, looking back, there were essentially only 3 main characters to the film (Rourke, Tomei and Wood) however you didn’t need anymore. Their performances associated with the incredible direction of Aronofsky certainly meant that less was very definitely more.

I definitely think this movie deserves a spot on this list.  Did I love it? No.  Do I need to watch it again? No.  All of that being said, I am glad I did watch it.  It exposed me to a subset of sport and even society which I have never experienced before (even in movie format).  After watching it, I care even less about pro-wrestling than I did before.  I also depressingly feel that maybe for some people, you just can’t change your life.  No matter how hard you try.  That you are just well and truly stuck with your past and the present place it has led you to.

425.wrestler.rourke.mickey.lc.121508

Wow you really are little miss sunshine…. ☺ I disagree here I thought it was an incredibly thought provoking and raw faux documentary which opened up my eyes to the world of washed up and washed out sports stars. I’m sure that North America is littered with such stars scrounging a living from poorly attended signing events and dvd sales from their so-called “hayday”. It made me sad that the media and us as the public have such a flippant disregard for the lives of these entertainers. It hits home all the more after the news a couple of months ago of the death of the Ultimate Warrior from a heart attack. I will certainly watch this film and I salute Mickey Rourke probably not for the last time for being an amazing actor, this film deserves a place on this list and maybe not as low down as it actually is, in my opinion it’s probably only the subject matter which drags such brilliant film down the charts.

“The only place I get hurt is out there. The world don’t give a shit about me.” – Randy, The Ram.

Footnote – Six Degrees of Sir Richard Attenborough

Marisa Tomei appeared in Chaplin, which was directed by Sir Richard Attenborough.

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