A ballet dancer wins the lead in "Swan Lake" and is perfect for the role of the delicate White Swan - Princess Odette - but slowly loses her mind as she becomes more and more like Odile, the Black Swan.
This is a drama about an aging professional wrestler, decades past his prime, who now barely gets by working small wrestling shows in VFW halls and as a part-time grocery store employee. As he faces health problems that may end his wrestling career for good he attempts to come to terms with his life outside the ring: by working full time at the grocery store, trying to reconcile with the daughter he abandoned in childhood and forming a closer bond with a stripper he has romantic feelings for. He struggles with his new life and an offer of a high-profile rematch with his 1980s arch-nemesis, The Ayatollah, which may be his ticket back to stardom. Written by
The Wrestler won the Golden Lion a few days ago in Venice. Obviously that's going to build up some high expectations but director Darren Aronofsky introduced it as a "simple little film" and he didn't want the movie to get over-hyped. He said it's been a busy week as he only finished the film 6 days ago!!
Randy "The Ram" Robinson, played brilliantly by Mickey Rourke, was a star professional wrestler in the 1980s. He had a legendary pay-per-view match against the Ayatollah in his prime, his own Nintendo game, posters, "Best of The Ram" VHS series and legions of fans who worshipped him. The film begins in the present day with The Ram collecting a paltry sum of money for his latest fight only to discover he's been locked out of his trailer home because he's behind on his rent. He has a good physique for his age - with the aid of steroids and tanning salons - he still has good friends in the local wrestling brotherhood and he enjoys hanging out with Cassidy (played by Marisa Tomei) at the strip club where she works. He's a likable guy and the neighbourhood kids look up to him as a hero, so it's easy to root for this washed-up old wrestler as he participates in choreographed, yet amazingly bloody, wrestling matches. He struggles to pay the rent while also searching for deeper meaning in his life as he knows that he can't wrestle forever. However, wrestling is the only thing he's good at, and he lives for those precious moments when he stands on the top turnbuckle and his adoring fans cheer his name but once he steps out of the ring his life is a mess. He'd like to reconcile with estranged daughter Stefanie (played by Evan Rachel Wood) but she hates him after he abandoned her in her youth. He's never given her a birthday gift, probably because he doesn't know which day it is.
There's a parallel story with Cassidy, an aging stripper. She also knows that her career is coming to an end, but unlike The Ram she seems to have plans after she retires, and her finances are in good order. They've obviously known each other for quite some time, and though there seems to be some mutual attraction Cassidy has always followed the rule "don't get involved with a customer". They have a complex relationship that changes throughout the film, but you can always feel that Cassidy cares about his well-being.
This movie works because it feels so real. All the characters are so natural in their roles that you'll feel drawn into this world of wrestling. Mickey Rourke doesn't just play a wrestler, he is a wrestling star, he is Randy The Ram in every way. The wrestling scenes were also amazingly crafted and you can see Randy build off the crowd's excitement. The film does a great job of showing why so many fans love "fake" wrestling.
I thoroughly enjoyed this little film but it's not for all tastes. It's gritty, raw, sometimes depressing, sometimes funny, and yeah I'll admit that I cried. A 9.5/10 for me and it's a must-see for wrestling fans (especially from 1980s era) and, obviously, anyone who enjoyed the previous works of Aranofsky and/or Rourke. Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei were both outstanding and Evan Rachel Wood also shone in her supporting role.
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