Movie Review

Hollywood always likes a good comeback. Indeed, every year there seems to be another big budget blockbuster pushing the same “comeback for the ages” tagline. It’s a tired, worn-out theme, but one that can easily earn studios a quick buck. With Darren Aronofsky’s latest film, “The Wrestler,” audiences can finally witness a comeback that is worthy of all the critical acclaim. In the 1980’s, Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson (Mickey Rourke) was the champion of the professional wrestling world. With legions of fans, action figures and a title belt, Randy fought his way to the top. In “The Wrestler’s” setting twenty years later, it’s clear that time hasn’t been kind to Randy. Now an aging and almost forgotten wrestler, Randy can barely scrape enough money together to pay for his dingy trailer. When a heart attack forces Randy to reconsider wrestling for a living, he begins to mend his broken relationship with his daughter, Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood), while building a relationship with a stripper named Cassidy (Marisa Tomei). “The Wrestler” is one of those rare movies where art meets real life. Cinematographically, “The Wrestler” has the personal closeness of a documentary. At the very beginning of the film, the viewer is thrown into the life of Randy ‘The Ram’ with little background knowledge or preconceptions. Indeed, the movie can feel as if the camera is truly following a normal person around throughout his normal, everyday struggles. Aronofsky clearly tried to obtain a sense of reality – a fact that sets this movie apart from all of the other manufactured comeback films. Shaky handheld shots and many extreme close-ups give this film its intimate, “no filters” feel. Using these techniques, Aronofsky has created an intense drama that is universally touching. Because the film strives for a sense of intimacy and realness, it doesn’t flow in a traditional way. In fact, “The Wrestler” may feel drawn out and self-indulgent at times. Its staggering pace however, is a successful attempt to deepen the audience’s empathy for Randy’s often heartbreaking story. While those with short attention spans might want to avoid this film, the audience is rewarded for sticking with story. The ending manages to be incredibly powerful while maintaining a sense of ambiguity. “The Wrestler” doesn’t just end; it leaves the viewer shocked and emotionally drained, pummeled by the tragic loss of Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson. Of course, like most movies that focus on realism, the acting takes center stage in importance. Luckily, the performances are uniformly amazing. Rourke positively embodies Randy, so much so that it often seems that Rourke isn’t acting at all. Rourke is the body and spirit of the film, giving the best performance of his twenty plus year career, bar none. While both Wood and Tomei pull their weight in acting ability, they are both completely outshined by Rourke’s devastating performance. Rourke seems to become Randy, pulling the movie and Rourke’s career out of obscurity and into the public eye. It is truly something that has to be seen to be believed. “The Wrestler” is all about the simultaneous comebacks of Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson and Mickey Rourke. While the movie itself might not be perfect, Rourke’s performance alone makes it a knock-out, real-life look into the fake world of professional wrestling. Aronofsky, Wood, Tomei and Rourke have truly come together to make a movie that isn’t merely watched—it’s experienced. Grade: 6-