Movie of the Week: The Wrestler (2008)

Darren Aronofsky directs Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood in this character study where an ageing wrestler of fading fame tries to live out his last few matches before his body gives in and the sport is no longer an option.

A bleach blonde resurrection. Eighties Christ juiced on the corner post. Possibly the greatest movie star comeback ever, Mickey Rourke is sweetly amazing here. Almost never off screen, Maryse Alberti handheld vérité camera moves with him, stays on his back like an addiction, tracking him from trailer park to ring and back. From tramp to king. There’s a simple brutal magic to this. A man feels like a god but his living dream is killing him. He’s near homeless keeping up on the payments on a body punishing routine of ‘roids, insulin, fake tan and pumped iron. His aged flesh tortured into some long forgotten myth of macho perfection. Just so he can step into the spotlight and convince in a sequence of choreographed violence. The moves might be planned but the mutilation he and others inflict on him to make the ballet seem true is destroying him. Yet this is where he feels alive, feels like who he truly is. Rourke’s lumbering freak is a good gentle soul out in the cold, harsh every day. We want him to have his dream, just wish it wasn’t fatal. He has been a deer in wrestling’s headlights for too long. He has been too distracted to foster any kind of relationship with his estranged daughter, she has been hurt by being a distant second to the call of the ring too many times. His only meaningful contact with another human is his tentative relationship with Marisa Tomei’s ageing stripper. Both know their time has passed and they aren’t really match fit for their respective games anymore (though I doubt any punter would be disappointed in reality if middle aged Tomei did work their local strip bar). She doesn’t want to be “Cassidy” anymore, doubts whether a romance with a customer is the best leaping off point. What else is there for him but the love of the crowd? They are misfits like him, happy to fill a school gymnasium or decrepit concert hall to see the face and the heel go at it. He only wants to be their Randy The Ram, nobody including him really has any love for the name on his social security card, Robin Ramzinski. Even though it will kill him, Randy has to chose between the heartbreaking chill of reality or celebrated immortality in the ring.


Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here

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