I had heard the buzz and hoopla surrounding THE WRESTLER, but it took me a while to see it. Finally, on Friday, February 27, 2009, I caught the early bird $6 10:45 AM showing at a theatre about 20 miles away. I didn't know who the hell this Mickey Rourke cat was but I knew one thing:
It had been too DAMN long since I saw a movie I walked away from feeling WOW
And THE WRESTLER was getting those kinds of reviews. Hey, I loved pro wrestling growing up, and I still do to some degree today, so what the hell, yeah?
The film lived up to its billing, and more
As a child of the '80s, I grew up on the WWF (now known as the WWE). I loved the action and larger than life characters such as The Immortal Hulk Hogan and Macho Man Randy Savage. My bro, uncle and I were huge wrestling fiends, and I recall to this day fondly how we stayed up late to watch all the Saturday Night Main Event shows together. If you ever liked wrestling, then you'll love THE WRESTLER even more
The first thing that impressed me about the film as I was watching it was how real it seemed. The sights, the sounds... hell, I could almost smell the New Jersey air. It follows sort of a documentary film style; one that I'm not a fan of, but somehow, THE WRESTLER pulls it off
I was also impressed with Rourke's performance. It was FLAWLESS. Playing the role of an '80s wrestling icon 20 years past his prime, working in indy circuits and high school gyms, doing the only thing he knows how, Rourke was more than believable. He had the look down pat: from his leathery skin, his subtle mannerisms and so on. It was stunning
Rourke was absolutely brilliant
So is the whole movie about a wrestler past his prime looking to relive his glory days and hang onto the past as long as he possibly can? Of course not. It goes much beyond that and it goes much beyond wrestling. Similar to how Field of Dreams isn't just about baseball, or how Coach Carter isn't all about basketball
The RAM JAM, Randy's signature finishing maneuver
Marisa Tomei plays Pam, Rourke's love interest. Her stripper name is Cassidy, and her role to the film went a long way in making the film as memorable as it is. It wouldn't have worked nearly as well without Tomei playing her part convincingly
So much for never getting mixed up with a stripper...
And hats off to Marisa Tomei. She really did an excellent job as Pam / Cassidy. Honestly, this was my first time seeing Tomei act, and I don't know if anyone else would have fit the role to a tee as she did
What a beauty that Marisa Tomei is
As the aging stripper, Tomei plays a character that's anything BUT one dimensional. She's a single mom working hard to put food on the table for her 9-year-old son. What I liked most about her character (besides the stripper heels of course) was how she evolved throughout the course of the movie. That was very nice to see. Of course, so were her big beautiful b -- [SNIP! -Ed.]
Easy there big fella...
In a funky way, Cassidy is a lot like Randy "The Ram" Robinson. They're both no longer 25 and have to come to grips that perhaps Father Time has passed them by in their respective professions. Randy has a thing for Pam, but will she reciprocate?
Outside the ring, Randy works at the local supermarket. On weekends he works the deli counter. These were some of the best scenes in the movie in my humble estimation, as it really showed another layer to Robin, AKA Randy "The Ram" Robinson. The raw scene where he snaps is just worth the price of admission alone... "GET YOUR OWN FUCKIN' CHEESE!"
I can't say it enough: I absolutely love the look and feel of this film. It's gritty, it's raw, it's real. I have never seen a film where I felt the 'PULSE' of the setting and characters as much as I did with THE WRESTLER. Hats off to director Darren Aronofsky, Mickey Rourke and all others involved. The setting was bleak at times, lifeless (like the shopping scene) but yet the characters bring some small hope to it all
"Yeah... 20 years goes by fast doesn't it..."
Another key player in the film was Randy's only daughter, Stephanie, played by Evan Rachel Wood. The two have an estranged relationship stemming from back in the day when Randy missed out on her Birthdays and just failing to be there to provide for her. It is said to parallel the real life relationship between Jake "The Snake" Roberts and his own daughter
Randy attempts to patch up the rocky relationship by paying her a visit and asking for a second (or seventh) chance. Reluctantly, Stephanie opens the door. They go out to her old favorite childhood spot: the boardwalk. There they have an emotional heart to heart, and it seems this time, things WILL be different... but will they really be?
"You used to love this place so much..."
"I just wanna tell you... I'm the one... who is supposed to take care of everything. I'm the one who is supposed to make everything OK for everybody... but it just didn't work out like that. And I left. I left you. You never did anything wrong. I used to try to... ha... forget about you. I used to try to pretend that.... you didn't exist... but I can't
You're my girl. You're my little girl
And now.... I'm an old broken down piece of meat. And I'm alone. And I deserve to be all alone. I just don't want you to hate me.... k?"
Back in the wrestling world, Randy receives an offer to face his infamous '80s arch nemesis, The Ayatollah (played by ex WCW wrestler Ernest "The Cat" Miller) in a rematch. Their epic encounter back in the '80s sold out the arena and is widely regarded as one of the most memorable bouts of all time. Are both dogs simply too old... or can history repeat itself?
"I just want to say to you all tonight I'm very grateful to be here. A lot of people told me that I'd never wrestle again and that's all I do. You know, if you live hard and play hard, and you burn the candle at both ends, you pay the price for it. You know, in this life you can lose everything you love, everything that loves you. Now I don't hear as good as I used to and I forget stuff and I ain't as pretty as I used to be... but God damn it -- I'm still standing here and I'm The Ram. As time goes by, as time goes by, they say "he's washed up," "he's finished," "he's a loser," "he's all through." You know what? The only one that's going to tell me when I'm through doing my thing is you people here"
*AUDIENCE GOES NUTS*
What will happen during the rematch of Randy the Ram vs. Ayatollah II?
Will the Ram walk out on top one more time?
What of Stephanie and Pam?
*RAM JAM RAM JAM!*
I've never felt compelled to write about a movie here on RVG until now. THE WRESTLER blew me away in every aspect a film could ever hope to achieve. I'm not ashamed to admit this but... the last movie to make me cry, as in tears coming down my cheek, was THE GREEN MILE (1999). There was one certain scene in THE WRESTLER that made me shed a tear. First damn film in a decade. Now I've teared up before, but not in TEN YEARS has a single teardrop escaped my eye due to a movie. THE WRESTLER is just an AWESOME piece of art that hits on a bevy of human emotions... themes that many of us can relate to. When the credits rolled, with Bruce Springsteen's song playing, I sat through it all, thinking to myself.... "That was the best God damn film I seen in YEARS." Do you have to be a wrestling fan to enjoy it? Nope, though it certainly wouldn't hurt. If you have a chance, please go see THE WRESTLER in a theatre near you ASAP. Otherwise, be sure to catch it on DVD sometime this coming April. Everything from the actors to the dialogue to the cinematography... was right on the muthaf*ckin' mark. This is the kind of movie that stays with you LONG after the final scene rolls, and for the first time in God knows how many years, I actually wanted one more scene after the last shot
... GO SEE THE WRESTLER!
Bruce Springsteen's The Wrestler music video... what a beautiful and fitting song!