Monday, June 22, 2009

The Wrestler (2008)

The buzz surrounding The Wrestler began months before it opened and continued long afterwards. This often works against viewers. Few movies can match the heightened expectations created after everyone tells you how brilliant it is and how feverishly you're going to love it. I'm pleased to report that The Wrestler passed this test.

Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Mickey Roarke) is a weekend wrestler. His body aches, he takes a plethora of meds and drugs to keep his pain in check and his muscles perky. But, he's tired. The money isn't going far, he's lonely and The Ram is thirsting for more. His friendship with stripper Cassidy/Pam (Marisa Tomei) is one of the few real connections he has. While she lap dances for him, he confides in her about what's cooking in his life. After he suffers a heart attack, she suggests he reaches out to his estranged daughter, Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood). He gets in touch with her, but she isn't ready to accept him. Randy and Cassidy get closer but that comes with its own issues.

The Wrestler is another coming-of-middle-age film. Both Randy and Cassidy are at crossroads in their lives. They can't continue doing what they do forever. Pam is making her transition, mostly for her son. Randy begins his and for a while looks as if he will be successful, but when he gets carried away with old habits, the new path is sabotaged.

The Wrestler looks and feels like a documentary. You get grainy close-ups. The camera follows the characters closely as they walk, drive and work. You feel like you are right there with them. Rourke's Randy is animated. He's got his foibles, his charm and his sweetness. He's extremely likeable. It's hard not to root for him. Tomei does equally well in her role as the aging exotic dancer/stripper. (If aging wasn't a theme in the movie, you wouldn't think this applied to her--she looks amazing.) Even Wood, in her small role, holds her own. Rourke deserves the Best Actor Golden Globe he received. (Both he and Tomei were nominated for several awards.) Even the wrestling portion is fun and interesting--the planning of the matches, the chronology of the moves and the discussion of use of props--especially for anyone who grew up watching pre-WWF and WWF.

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Country: US

Genre: Drama

Run time: 111 minutes

Scale: 5

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