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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
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.
The Wrestler is a drama centered around an aging professional wrestler
past his prime. It's so much more than that. You don't have to be a fan
of wrestling to enjoy this film. The wrestling part of it can be put
aside as a back story. Randy "The Ram" could be in any other
profession, doing any other thing and could be in the same situation.
That's what's so great about it. He's just a lonely guy, whose life
seems to have passed him by. A middle aged man who doesn't have much
going for him. Sure, he's a wrestler, but he needs wrestling more than
wrestling needs him. He needs it to feel important, to feel like a
somebody. He really has nothing to show for himself, no wife, just a
daughter he hasn't been there for his whole life. Missed opportunities.
He's sad and alone and we really do feel for him.
A closer bond seems to be forming between him and his stripper friend, played by Marisa Tomei, who seems to be in a similar situation as he is. The middle aged stripper who seems to have a real connection with "The Ram" is shown in another misunderstood profession. We all may not be as different as we may think. Health problems compromise his wrestling career as he tries to deal with the real world and rebuild his relationship with his abandoned daughter. The scenes with Evan Rachel Wood (his daughter) are touching. Beautifully done. Rourke's character portrayal of the Ram is one of the best in a long time. He's not just acting, he transforms into the character on screen. It's amazing to watch. All the credit he's getting is truly deserved.
The film is Directed by Darren Aronofsky, who also directed Requiem for a Dream. He does a beautiful job showing the sport with realism. The film respects the wrestlers and their world, and expects the same from the audience. This film is done in a style that's so real, so honest, so amazing, in easily one of the best films of the year. All around great performances and great direction. Definitely worth checking out sometime.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Nicholas Cage? Bruce Willis? Wrong. Never would have worked. No one
else could have played Randy "The Ram" Robinson with the compassion and
energy he brings to the role--it's painful to see the fading
professional wrestler coming to terms with both his mortality and the
emptiness of his life outside the ring, and this is largely due to
Rourke's excellent acting. Twenty years after the defining match of his
career, Randy is still a fan favorite and loving his work--until he
suffers a heart attack. The film follows the gentle giant as he tries
to adjust to living without wrestling, reconnect with his estranged
daughter (Evan Rachel Wood), and kindle a bond with a friend who works
in a strip club (Marisa Tomei).
This isn't just a film about professional wrestling, but Aronofsky gets that part right. He does a beautiful job showing the sport with realism without mocking it: he highlights the humor, but never makes fun of it. He doesn't just deconstruct the mythical image of wrestlers' performances, but he also destroys their apparent rage towards each other. It's clear that these guys are friends--they care about and respect each other. These other wrestlers in the film are all played by professionals, and they do a great job with the acting. The film respects them and their world, and demands the same from the audience.
The other supporting characters are strong as well. Tomei and Wood's characters could easily have fallen into clichés, but they give Randy some of his best moments on screen. Tomei's storyline, especially, serves as a nice parallel and contrast to Randy's. Wood's could use a little more juice, but her story arc does the same. Both are effective.
Another notable aspect of the film is its music. The character of Randy is a big '80s rock fan, and for the film, they got the rights to use Guns N' Roses' "Sweet Child o' Mine." A special thanks at the end of the film went out to Axl Rose. On the softer side, Bruce Springsteen wrote "The Wrestler" for the credits, and its sweet melancholy serves as the perfect coda for the film.
Overall, 'The Wrestler' is great. It's a rich, round film that smoothly weaves together pathos and comedy and soul. It's funny and dramatic, tear-jerking and tough. Definitely a must-see this winter.
Very rarely an artistic come back is so pointed, so truthful and/or so honest. Mickey Rourke is extraordinary here and I can assure you, he'll break your heart. "It's not over until you (pointing at the audience) tell me its over" Who was saying that? Mickey Rourke himself or his character? Both, I think both. I felt a chill run down my spine, the kind of chill you feel when confronted by an unvarnished truth. Darren Aronofsky is definitely someone to watch and to follow. His characters face limit situations and he finds torturous paths for them to travel. What makes the whole thing endurable is the unmistakable signs of self awareness. In "The Wrestler" the painful meeting between Ram and his daughter (played by Evan Rachel Wood) have the overwhelming weight of the truth without a hint of sentimentality. As we are approaching Oscar season I imagine already a fight to the finish between Sean Penn for "Milk" and Mickey Rourke for "The Wrestler" They both deserve the highest accolade. What a year!
I caught an advanced screening of The Wrestler starring Mickey Rourke
last night in Hollywood, CA. Following the screening was a Q&A session
with Mickey Rourke, Darren Aronofsky, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood,
and film composer Clint Mansell.
Mickey Rourke delivers one of the most honest and heart breaking performances I've seen from an actor. Very rarely do you see an actor come back with such a role. He is truly extraordinary in The Wrestler. There are times in this film when I wonder just how much of this is Mickey in character as "The Ram" or Mickey reacting as Mickey to a situation similar to what he went through in his "lost years". The parallels are astounding. There is a scene when Randy "The Ram" is in the ring and he points to the audience "It is not over until you tell me it's over". Is it Mickey or Randy talking there? As a newly revived Mickey Rourke fan, I can tell you this audience member says it's just beginning Mickey!
Marissa Tomei delivers a stellar performance as an aging exotic dancer the parallel story to Mickey's character "The Ram". Evan Rachel Wood really brings it as "The Rams" angry, abandoned and emotionally exhausted daughter. The chemistry between Mickey and Evan is breath taking!
Darren Aronofsky delivers this story to us with honesty, realism and artistic skill. I think this young director will be around making fantastic films for some time to come. At least I hope he is!
You can't go wrong with this film. It is rock solid to the core!
Facts from the Q&A
Only the 3rd American Film to with the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.
The film was made for $7 Million.
The filmscore is more atmospheric as the composer did not want to interfere with the documentary feel of the film.
Mickey Rourke trained for 6 months to get to the wrestling weight of 235 for the film. Weight training, wrestling training and eating 5,000 calories.
The scenes of Mickey Rourke and Evan Rachel Wood were as real as they could get. The actors put on music before the scene and just talked about their real life and Mickey's parallels to the film. When the director felt they were there he would yell action and they would work through the scene.
The scenes back stage with the wrestlers were all real as well. The crew would go to wrestling matches and film the wrestlers before/after matches. Mickey would walk in and introduce himself (in character) and the scene was improvised.
The film was about 20-30% improvisation from the actors.
I saw the movie at the world premiere in Venice and Mickey Rourke, Darren Aronofsky and other crew members were also in the audience. When the credits began, people were jumping out of their seats (including me) applauding and cheering for more than 15 minutes. It was really amazing. I have been a Rourke fan for 10 years now and to me Darren Aronofsky is one of the greatest directors of the last ten years. So when I entered the cinema my expectations were as high as never before. But this 40 Euro ticket was worth every cent. I never saw such a moving performance by "Sir Eddie Cook" who played Randy "the Ram" with such authenticity that I was paralyzed for almost two hours. And that's because Rourke isn't just playing "Ram", he IS "Ram", at least a part of him (there are many parallels to his real troubled past). Aronofsky really did a great job and really pushed the actors to their limits. It is amazing to see how a good director can turn such a simple story into one of the greatest movies I have ever seen (and I watch hundreds of movies). So everybody who grew up in the 80's with wrestling, hard rock and Nintendo or just loves movies should see this - at least ten times. God bless you Darren, Mickey and all the other crew members for the best cinema experience I have ever had. no doubt about it.
Enough has been written already about Mickey Rourke's real-life
parallels with his fictional character in The Wrestler. Yes, it makes
the story seem even realer, and is perhaps what attracted Rourke to the
project. (Or perhaps not perhaps, instead, it is what attracted
Darren Aronofsky to the actor.) But to focus on such surface
similarities seems like an undermining of his work here. Rourke may not
be as out-of-his-comfort-zone as Sean Penn in Milk, the only other
Oscar-worthy lead performance this year, but that is merely a testament
to his fundamental understanding of his character: Randy is an
understated guy with big scars, both literally and figuratively. He's
been wrestling for years now reduced to borderline tribute shows in
front of dwindling crowds, scrounging up barely enough cash to buy the
variety of drugs and steroids he needs to maintain his weight. He lives
in a trailer park and gets locked out for not being able to keep up
rent. He works part-time at a grocery store and visits strip clubs
regularly, because it's the only place where he seemingly has any
meaningful connections with another human being namely the dancer
Cassidy (played by Marisa Tomei), who is similarly a bit older than
most peers in her "profession," yet doesn't really know any other way
The Wrestler draws immediate comparison to the classics of working class cinema, including Rocky and On the Waterfront. Sylvester Stallone returned to his iconic character two years to bring resolution to the life of Rocky Balboa, the Philly boxer who got back in the ring for one final match . It was a good film and touched on similar themes a nice guy stuck in a mean world, an estranged child and ultimately both films present us with the dilemma these men find themselves in: too old to continue doing what they know best, and too old to learn how to do anything else.
Whereas Rocky Balboa was a trip down memory lane, it was hardly as bleak or frank as The Wrestler, which is a vastly superior film. Darren Aronofsky has established himself with this picture as one of the most important of modern American filmmakers; to acknowledge that this work is from the same man who directed The Fountain is astonishing, because they couldn't be farther apart on a sylistic level. The Wrestler is grainy, low-key and rough. It isn't polished, fantastical or elaborate. And that suits the material perfectly. The fact that Aronofsky was willing to almost entirely reinvent his approach for the benefit of the story is more than admirable. He deserves a nomination.
Tomei is wonderful in her supporting role, fleshing out her character (again, both literally and figuratively) with greater competence than most actresses would probably be able to manage, because it's a fairly obvious role the "stripper with a heart of gold" who is the object of desire for the gruff guy with a tortured soul. Yet she manages to strike a balance in the film as one of two female roles, the other belonging to Evan Rachel Wood as Randy's emotionally severed daughter.
The Wrestler is impressive for all its smaller parts as well as the larger ones. When Randy goes to visit his daughter, the reaction is fleeting; it's not overly dramatic and revelatory, like most films of this nature often create such scenes to be. We can tell by her reaction that it's not the first time Randy has attempted to reconcile with her, as she seems unfazed by his appearance on her doorstep. It is in this fashion that the film jumps through all the mandatory hoops of its genre (think, of all things, The Royal Tenenbaums), yet still manages to seem fresh and realistic.
And then there's Rourke. As aforementioned, he deserves the Oscar nom he's likely to receive. And he should probably win. This is one of the best performances of the decade, perhaps even of all time, if we really want to get down to it. It's the best work of his career, at once the most fully developed of his characters and the most imperfect. Randy isn't airbrushed to make him seem more appealing to the audience; Aronofsky and Rourke exploit his faults and present him as a normal man, tempted by vices and haunted by his past. Yet we recognize that the drugs, the empty sex and the generally self-destructive behavior Randy partakes in is rooted in the same emotional enguish that the actor himself seems to carry with him; Aronofsky spotted this quality in Rourke, and he fought the producers for Rourke over their first choice (Nicolas Cage), and his dedication paid off you'll be hard-pressed to find a more convincing, moving or memorable lead performance this year.
Ultimately, The Wrestler is one of the year's very best films a character study that is at once timeless and powerful. And it's helmed by a director who has managed to bounce back from an aesthetically pleasing but shallow art-house film to produce one of the great works of American cinema in the 21st century.
It's no coincidence that Mickey Rourke is responsible for the comeback
performance of the year if not the decade. Rourke's life and tumultuous
past parallel Randy "The Ram" Robinson's own life so eerily close it
becomes clear that no one else could have ever played this role. Darren
Aronofsky's fourth feature is not only his most intimate but also his
most accomplished to date. Aronofsky offers his most simplistic film
both visually and narratively and ends up creating a film that has more
depth and layers to it than any of his previous films.
Everything about Randy's life is in a state of decay. He retains a body that is on the verge of collapse, he hasn't seen his only daughter in years, financially he is exhausted, and the only thing that brings him solace in life is the same thing that threatens to end it. The most effective aspect of Randy's character is that no matter what mistakes he might have made in the past his sense of regret is so strong and genuine that it is impossible not to forgive him. As beaten down and alone as Randy might be he never looses his fighting spirit or sense of hope, no matter how little it may be. Regardless what hardship Randy is confronted with he never retreats and is admirably courageous even if being courageous might not be the smartest settlement.
For the general public who tend to find professional wrestling laughable and are quick to judge as a form of entertainment rather than a sport will find a deadly adversary in Aronofsky. The Wrestler shows that while outcomes of matches may be fixed the physical tolls these men take on their body are often more extreme and long lasting than most other "respectable" sports. The fact that Randy gives so much of himself and is ridiculed from everywhere to the trailer park he lives in to the job he keeps while not in the ring, makes us even more empathetic to the struggle Randy goes through to try and make it back on top. Overall The Wrestler is a constantly engaging and compelling character study with some of the finest acting, writing, directing I have seen in recent years. Oh and I forgot, the last shot will leave you speechless.
Mickey Rourke returns to the big screen in Darren Aronofsky's brilliant character study, The Wrestler. Mickey Rourke gained about 35 pounds of muscle to play Randy 'The Ram' Robinson and looks the part of an old beaten down wrestler. Aronofsky creates a cold atmosphere that leaves the audience feeling as old and depressed as Rourke's character. The Wrestler doesn't have the look or feel of any previous Aronofsky film, it is mainly hand-held and has a gritty look to it that gives it a documentary feel. This film sucked me in. I really felt for the main character. I felt his pain and anger throughout the film. I felt his desperation. When a film has you reflecting the emotions expressed on the screen then it has accomplished something. I also appreciated that the story focused on two professions that are frowned upon in society, that being professional wrestling and stripping. Both professions are linked in the film and has the audience realize how similar they are. We also see the hardship of carrying out such a profession. I really enjoyed this film and had the pleasure of meeting the director after the showing. I was most impressed with him and can't wait till this film gets released.
The authenticity is the hallmark of this movie combined with vivid cinematography and set design. An amazing career-best performance from Mickey Rourke and outstanding work by Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood, the film is very powerful and emotional. Again, an exceptional achievement by a true artist-Rourke. His performance is so penetrating, wise, and authentic that it deserves the Oscar. Randy "The Ram" Robinson was the biggest wrestler in the world, back in the 80s. Now it's 2008 and while things have changed, in his head he's stuck back in good old days. He's still wrestling, even though the money and his audiences are long gone. His aging body can no longer take the punishment. Aronofsky really captures the magic in Mickey's performance. It is the true essence of method acting. He is "The Ram".
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