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Brutal, Honest, Touching film
Billy_Costigan20 January 2009
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.
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Well done!!
MissyH31631 July 2011
As someone who's a fan and who has actually worked behind the scenes in pro wrestling, I can tell you that Randy "The Ram" Robinson's story is a very respectful and realistic portrayal of the toll pro wrestling takes on its stars' lives. Certainly not everyone in the biz ends up as destitute and lonely as Randy was - some do, definitely - but those who end up well-off in every sense of the word (like Hulk Hogan, John Cena, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and The Rock, for instance) are VERY, VERY rare. Most end up somewhere in between.

Interestingly, as precarious as Randy's health became, however, if he were in his mid-50's (as was Mickey Rourke at the time), he still had a longer pro wrestling career than many others who abused their body likewise. Randy still was made up of some very tough stuff and in fact beat the odds with his career length.

When asked "is pro wrestling fake?", I always answer, "only where it needs to be" - i.e., the story lines and SOME of the action. No one deliberately sets out to end another one's career, but like any other contact sport such as pro football, the athleticism and subsequent pain & injury are all TOO real. There's no "off season" in pro wrestling, and certainly no astronomically high salaries as other pro athletes make - not by a long shot. But in pro wrestling you'll find the best athletes in the world.

Bottom line: It's a brutal business and an extremely hard way to make a living - period. That's why the men and women who stick with it and suffer all they do is for one reason only - because they love it. May God bless them all. :)
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A Broken Down Piece of Meat That Doesn't Deserve To Be All Alone
BandofInsiders10 December 2008
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.
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A Haunting Portrait Of Loneliness
ccthemovieman-125 March 2009
Wow, what a sordid but fascinating film. I can why Mickey Rourke won so many awards for his performance, too. The same goes for the film.

The film was shocking to me: For instance, it was a shock seeing Rourke -"Randy The Ram" - with the long, flowing blond hair and rippling muscles. Hey, it's not that former boxer was ever in bad shape, but he never had muscles like this either. The man must have pumped a lot of iron to get ready for this role as an aging wrestler.

Another shock was seeing Maria Tomei, of "My Cousin Vinny" fame, naked - and in that state in more than one scene. She didn't leave much to the imagination as "Cassidy." A third shock was seeing some of the early wrestling scenes. Yeah, pro wrestling is rough stuff and it's bloody and it's fake, etc., but the scenes in here are pretty brutal, more than I've ever seen on TV. The one extended match with the "staples" was pretty gruesome.

Evan Rachel Wood is convincing as Randy's daughter "Stephanie." This 21-year-old is no stranger to acting, having been doing it since she was four! The scenes with her and her dad are memorable.

When the shock of the above scenes of sex and violence (and language) fade away, underneath it all is a very tender, sad tale of a lonely man who invested too much in his career and, after coming close to mortality, realizes the important of family and simply being loved by anyone. That's what sticks with you long after the film ends. Loneliness can be a killer.

"Randy" tries to mend fences and post a few himself - in his final quest not to wind up as an island in this world of humanity - with both successful and unsuccessful results. Sometimes you can never change what you are, and sometimes you can. Both of those are demonstrated here in this oddly-edgy-but sentimental film.
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Honest to the core!
natasha-bishop12 December 2008
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.
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One of the best films of 2008
MovieAddict201631 December 2008
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 to live.

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.
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The Return of Mickey Rourke
littlemartinarocena10 November 2008
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!
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Powerful Performance by Mickey Rourke
preda0121 November 2008
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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Amazing film that focuses on two often misjudged professions.
Ludypro11 December 2008
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.
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The role Mickey Rourke was born to play
Superunknovvn27 February 2009
"The Wrestler" is a beautiful movie, but it wouldn't be half as good if Mickey Rourke hadn't given the main character a face and a heart. There's virtually no other Hollywood actor that could have embodied Randy "The Ram" Robinson as perfectly as Rourke, and it's shocking to think how the movie could have turned out had someone else, say Bruce Willis or - as originally planned - Nicolas Cage played the part. With Rourke it's not so much an actor memorizing lines and delivering them convincingly, it's like watching a guy having gone through hell and now showing his scars. Rourke's performance even lets one overlook some rather clichéd elements in the story (the exotic dancer with a golden heart, the neglected daughter, a dance in a romantic dilapidated ballroom). It's all good, because one look at Randy's face reminds us of all the hits and punches he must have taken in the past, and it all becomes real again.

So, Rourke obviously makes the movie, but that's not the only remarkable thing. Besides a very good performance by the beautiful Marisa Tomei, "The Wrestler" is also worth mentioning because it marks the first time Darren Aronofsky has made a straight forward drama that's not heavy headed or laden with too much symbolism. After the highly pretentious "The Fountain" such a movie was more than due. "The Wrestler" proves that Aronofsky is not only capable of stylistic extravaganza, but can also handle the art of "plain" storytelling.

The fine title song by Bruce Springsteen must not be forgotten, either. After "Streets Of Philadelphia" and "Dead Man Walking" this is his third soundtrack contribution that captures the feel of a movie beautifully. Props to Aronofsky for putting an emphasis on that song by letting it play over a black screen for a couple of seconds before the closing credits start to roll.

In the end, "The Wrestler" is such a huge success because Aronofsky made the right choice by insisting on Rourke to play the main role, and because Rourke more than lived up to the director's expectations. Sean Penn may have been very good in "Milk", but the character of The Wrestler is a thousand times more interesting and memorable, and considering that fact that Rourke will forever be remembered for this great performance, he would really have deserved the Oscar.
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kurt-haider8 September 2008
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.
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Indicative of Mickey Rourke's Career
alexkolokotronis29 January 2009
The Wrestler is a very good drama filled with originality. The film follows a fictional character named Randy "Ram" Robinson whose a "has been" wrestler. His prime far behind him and continues to wrestle hoping to get back in the lime light.

The acting Mickey Rourke was quite good deserving his Oscar nomination. His feelings of loneliness and isolation is very heart felt and sad to watch. His search for some sort of love becomes far more important to him as wrestling now endangers his life. He attempts to reconcile with his daughter played by Evan Rachel Wood and takes a love interest in a stripper played very well by Marisa Tomei. Altogether it culminates into a very sad, open but yet satisfying ending. The authenticity of all the emotions could not be better displayed by any other actor than Mickey Rourke who like his character shares many experiences and hardships in order to get back to fame. It brings out an amazing amount of depth out of his character and simply pushes the film to that of the least a very good movie.

The direction of Darren Aronofsky and writing of Robert Siegel combined for an amazingly heart felt sympathy portrayal of a man. The movie is left open yet simultaneously feels as if its all we need to know. That we've gotten what we need to see and can figure out things for ourselves. The abrasive and gritty look of the movie only adds to the emotions felt for the character. Usually I would not mention this at all but Bruce Springsteen's song was a superb song for the movie as he always captures the scope of a movie and its complicity.

Hopefully this film will set up Mickey Rourke for more films to make as he has certainly convinced me here that hes worthy of more lead roles. His comeback story is compelling in that he was literally a forgotten soul up until this was made. He reputation had dispersed so much that it took years of searching for distributors from Darren Aronofsky that would accept Mickey Rourke as the lead actor. Well it certainly payed off and it shouldn't of been made any other way.
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Have you ever seen a broken man...
loco_7321 January 2009
If the phrase "the little movie that could" applies to any movie this year then it most certainly does to "The Wrestler". It is one of the best movies I've seen last year, and more than that it is even more special due to the brilliant and amazing performance of its cast.

The return of Mickey Rourke was overdue, a gifted and talented actor, who in my opinion was wrongly shunned and marginalized because of his past attitude and behaviour which marked him as a "bad boy". Hollywood surely likes to sometimes punish its own, especially those individuals who don't repent and crawl on their knees asking for "cinematic forgiveness" from their peers. What happened to Mickey Rourke was pure hypocrisy on the part of an industry that has no problem tolerating much, much worse behaviour on the part of less talented individuals; an industry that from time to time seeks to attain some kind of superficial saving grace marked by a phony mea culpa and a symbolic sacrificial lamb, in this case Mickey Rourke. I ask, how is what he did any different than the behaviour of let's say Lindsay Lohan, whom many critics where at one point anointing her as the next Jody Foster or Merryl Streep?!?!? Talk about self-imposed blindness! When I last saw Rourke in "Sin City", I was, albeit briefly but forcefully reminded, of how good of an actor he really is. So imagine my pleasure and anticipation when "The Wrestler" came out! At heart this is a story of redemption, but here comes the kick, it is actually an attempt and ultimate failure at redemption, at least in the sense that redemption is understood in today's society. This is a profoundly sad movie, but that fact does not take away one bit from the movie, rather it makes it more believable and even more powerful.

As Bruce Springsteen's song by the same title points out, there are some wrongs that can't be righted and some wounds that can't be mended, and that is the situation Mikey Rourke's character finds himself in. I don't want to discuss the movie in detail, nor give anything away from the plot or storyline, suffice to say that this is one viewing that is more than worth sitting through from beginning to end.

Rourke, Marisa Tomei (another grossly underrated actress) and Evan Rachel Wood are phenomenal and really hold their own and make the most of their on-screen time. Whatever award nominations and wins these actors are likely to get are more than deserved. Darren Aronofsky has really grown by leaps and bounds in his solid and varied career as director. I am personally glad that he decided to helm this project, the end result speaks for itself.

Ultimately there is redemption to be found in this movie, but it comes at a heavy price, to me that redemption takes the form of the triumph of the human spirit against insurmountable odds and seemingly impossible choices. These days that is a bold statement to make!
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Terrific performances, but the story is pretty formulaic
anhedonia16 February 2009
There is no denying that Darren Aronofsky's "The Wrestler features two tremendous performances by Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei. But there's also no denying that former The Onion editor Robert Siegel's screenplay is rather conventional, plot-wise. And that does hamper this film.

Which is perhaps why Academy Award voters decided not to nominate "The Wrestler" for Best Picture or Siegel's screenplay. If you look at the other original screenplay nominees - Courtney Hunt for "Frozen River," Mike Leigh for "Happy-Go-Lucky," Martin McDonagh for "In Bruges," Dustin Lance Black for "Milk" and Andrew Stanton and Jim Reardon for "Wall-E" - conventional or formulaic they certainly are not.

This is not to say that I didn't enjoy "The Wrestler." It is great to see Rourke back and acting to his fullest potential. Not only is this a juicy, meaty role - though some might argue he really isn't acting but simply being himself - but it is such a far cry that some of the crappy movies he came to be known for.

Perhaps it is because Rourke finds such a personal connection to Randy "The Ram" Robinson in "The Wrestler" that he is able to truly tap into the character's deepest fears and insecurities. Rourke is completely convincing as the once-famous, now washed-up wrestler peddling his talents at dingy venues and trying to eke out a living at mediocre autograph sessions. There's genuine angst in Rourke's performance and it is one that certainly propels the film forward.

Tomei, too, turns in a stunning performance as Cassidy, a stripper more by circumstance than by choice. It is a bravura turn by this one romantic-comedy lead. She has matured brilliantly as an actress and there really isn't a false note in her performance.

But then there's Siegel's screenplay. I realize there are tons of people who absolutely adore this film and my reaction to the movie isn't by any means meant to demean their adoration.

"The Wrestler" starts out well and, for the first 30 minutes or so, kept me wondering where it was heading. It had a few genuinely nice surprises. But then comes the scene in the dressing room after a match. When that happened, I immediately knew how a conventional writer would unwind the plot. I hoped this film wouldn't, but it did. Everything I expected would happen happened. The twists, the turns, the character revelations - nothing that came after surprised me and that was a huge disappointment.

I would have expected something novel from Aronofsky, but he clings to Siegel's formulaic script and provides us with nothing that we couldn't have anticipated. I kept waiting for something to change my mind, but nothing did.

So what we're left to marvel at are Rourke's and Tomei's remarkably honest and, at times, brutally so, performances. And what I was left wondering was how much better, more trenchant, this film could have been with a more original screenplay.
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Top-notch, exhilarating, jarring, authentic
dfranzen7030 December 2008
In Darren Aronofsky's brilliant character drama The Wrestler, Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Mickey Rourke) is a down-and-almost-out pro wrestler who grapples with his own mortality and a fear of being alone and desperate. Rourke is phenomenal, delivering a powerful, highly physical performance that will knock your socks off as much as if he'd clotheslined you himself. Rourke's Randy is intrepid, a scarred battle cruiser who desperately needs to be in the ring to survive, a man who's emotions are kept as close to the vest as possible, a man with nothing else going for him other than his time in the spotlight.

The Ram, probably an amalgam of several real-life wrestlers (chief among them, Randy "Macho Man" Savage), is a relic of the 1980s, a man who wistfully counts the scars and cuts on his body and remembers with great fondness his greatest ring moment, a pay-per-view battle against The Ayatollah. But twenty years later, he's wrestling in high-school gymnasiums, barely able to put on a decent show but still basking in any glory he can find. But the gigs hardly pay at all, and more than once The Ram is unable to pay the rent on his mobile home.

Meanwhile, two people enter (and reenter) Randy's life. Cassidy (Marisa Tomei) is a stripper at a low-rent club that Randy frequents. Cassidy is just about the only person in the world that Randy can talk to; he's lonely, spending most of his postmatch time either drinking alone or patching up any new wounds. He's treading water; with no life outside of wrestling, he's just trying to make it through the night intact.

Reentering Randy's life is his long-estranged daughter, played by Evan Rachel Wood, who's hated her dad for years after he abandoned the family. Randy, in case you're still not certain, is not meant to be an entirely sympathetic figure; you know why he is how he is, and you do feel bad for him, but you also understand that just about everything that's made him who he is today is due to his own decisions. The Ram is not a victim.

Aside from the simple I'm-getting-too-old-for-this angle, there's a serious medical angel that presents itself early in the movie - keep on wrestling, the doctor warns, and you'll likely die in the ring. And to his credit, Randy does attempt to stop his own livelihood, but he quickly - and harshly - realizes how incredibly difficult that is. The real world doesn't want him, The Ram thinks. They only want what's in the ring.

Rourke is outstanding, perhaps sparking his own career renaissance, and Tomei is simply terrific as Cassidy. Tomei is a perfect physical fit for the role of the rapidly aging stripper; she's still gorgeous, but there are just enough lines on her face to make her age believable. Tomei continues to make excellent role choices, and she completely knocks this one out of the park. Her Cassidy hurts as much on the inside - and what movie stripper doesn't? - as Randy appears to on the outside, and they have much in common. It's gratifying to see Cassidy's feelings toward Randy evolve throughout the movie.

There are also several matches featuring The Ram, one of which should really appeal to wrestling fans: a hardcore match. In this kind of match, literally anything goes - barbed wire, windows, tables, chairs, anything. Yes, we all know that pro wrestling is fake, but it's fake really only in terms of the final outcome, with just a few guidelines worked out between the competitors beforehand (e.g., I'll hit you low, then you leg whip me). And of course these particular matches were staged and scripted, but man did they ever look real. You want to see something scary, check out Randy after the hardcore match, when staples - from a staple gun - are removed from his body.

The Wrestler is a gritty, raw look at one man's desire to keep on keepin' on, trying to survive the only way that's still open to him, while trying desperately to connect with someone emotionally as he ages. It's heartwarming but also heart-wrenching, and the somewhat-ambiguous ending is sure to confound people who like their movies to end tidily. It's a masterpiece for Rourke, another tour-de-force for Tomei, and an award-worthy effort for Aronofsky.
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Another great job by Aronofsky !
MattDevivre6 November 2008
Since "Requiem for a Dream" I am a fan of Aronofskys work. He could be one of very few US directors people will continue to talk about in many years from now. His pictures always touch essential parts of life and the use of metaphors is remarkable.

I saw "The Wrestler" at the Viennale Film Festival in Vienna. In some way it might be Aronofskys clearest and less metaphoric work up to this date. However considering this kind of theme it won't be easy to attract a large audience. Right now Wrestling isn't very popular and I think it has always had the image of a somewhat typical brainless "men sport". I fear that this image won't help selling an art-film. In fact this picture is a very existentialist and thoughtful piece of cinema. It affects more than just a business.

While on the first impression "The Wrestler" may seem "clearer", you still can't cut it down to a few words. It can be seen various ways, like a story about an ageing wrestler and showgirl who try to get back into life or as a film about show-business using those who are part of it, without really caring about them as person and so on. In any respect I think everyone should draw their own conclusions.

Comparing to former Aronofsky creations the picture language of "The Wrestler" is rougher. It is a much cheaper production. This style fits the theme of this film and makes it even more realistic. The visual style is not as dominant as for example during "The Fountain". A further plus of "The Wrestler" is the casting. I can't think of any better choice for "The Ram" than Mickey Rourke. Tomei is a wonderful choice.

Summing up: "The Wrestler" felt deep and moving. For me it was not as moving as "Requiem for a Dream" or "The Fountain" but nonetheless I think it's an excellent original drama. The best movie I've seen so far this year.
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Stunning Film Stunning Performance.
beermonsteruk31 May 2020
A good friend of mine with good film taste told me many years ago to watch this film, having been a massive fan of WWF and WCW wrestling many years ago, with the likes of Hulk Hogan, Bret "Hitman" Hart and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin being some of my favourites along with many others of those eras, I finally decided to take my mates advice and give this a watch.

Directed by Darren Aronofsky, and starring Mickey Rourke as Randy "The Ram" Robinson, this film tells the story of an ageing wrestler, well past his prime, and no longer wrestling to large crowds in big arenas or stadiums, he wrestles on weekends for independent promotions to small crowds but passionate fans nonetheless. As well as working in a supermarket for a manager he despises, he spends much of his time in a strip club, forming a friendship with an ageing stripper and single Mom, Cassidy. However, an opportunity for Randy to have a big match with his old rival The Ayatollah, in the 20 year anniversary of their old classic match from the 1980s, Randy and Ayatollah both agree on the bout.

As Randy suffers a heart attack after a hardcore match, seemingly from overtraining and steroid abuse, Randy is told he must retire, and any future involvement could result in his death. With Randy depressed at the prospect of never wrestling again, Cassidy suggests Randy get in touch with his estranged daughter, he does so, and despite her initially rebuffing him, she eventually agrees to a meet.

Stuck in his supermarket job, Randy misses wrestling, as it's the only thing he's been good at, and misses the adulation and respect he's given in that world, and he wonders if he should go through with the big fight, against Cassidys advice.

Without giving much away, this was a very good film, for wrestling and non wrestling fans alike, this wasn't just about the sport, it was about a man who struggles to connect with the World outside of his beloved profession, and as the film comes to a close, you get an insight into Randy's true feelings, a great moment. This film too was mostly praised those in the professional wrestling industry, with "Rowdy" Roddy Piper particularly being a fan, and Mickey Rourke himself changed the way he viewed the business, as wrestlers don't often get the respect of other athletes, despite their hectic training schedule. Whether you are a fan of wrestling or not, this is a must see, and Mickey Rourkes performance was definitely worthy of his Bafta. 9/10.
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Powerful and beautiful, brilliant acting and directing
Christopher_Reid5 March 2015
The Wrestler looked and felt a lot like a documentary. It doesn't seem like we're getting lines of rehearsed dialogue, it's just spontaneous and real. This style isn't just a gimmick though, it's incredibly engaging. Perhaps that's the attraction of reality TV. Even though so many of those shows are absolutely awful, people still watch them. Something about the truth, real people and places and situations is addictive and draws you in.

It was impressive how quickly we're given a sense of who Randy "The Ram" Robinson is and was. In the early scenes, the movie simply observes him. In this way it can say a lot without seeming to try to say anything at all. There are so many details - the timing of things, a sigh, an expression. You can feel Randy's exhaustion. His body is big but broken, even tortured. You sense his soul has been a bit battered as well. But he's really friendly to the local kids and any of his fans that he meets. He's got a big heart. He smiles and jokes around with customers at a grocery store. This makes it all the more sad how empty and down his life is.

Marisa Tomei is really good in her role. She has such strong eyes. The way she can really look at someone deeply and understand who they are. Her character is concealing some kind of pain. She is similar to Randy in that she abuses her body in her work. She does things to her body for the entertainment of crowds, as he does. They share a deeper connection because of this.

Some of the strongest scenes are when Randy tries to reconnect with his daughter. It pulls no punches. Perhaps the deepest anger/hatred comes from those who love us. He obviously let her down in the past and hopes that maybe she'll forgive him. A bit like the old guy in Home Alone. There's no answer for that kind of stuff, no guaranteed comfort. All you can do is make an effort and hope for the best. The point is we see how much they both care and it's both beautiful and sad that they have so much love but struggle to form a positive relationship with each other.

What's The Wrestler about? The way things change, the way things don't change. The way the things that destroy us are sometimes the only things that bring us joy. The way our flaws can gradually ruin our lives. The way everyone has so many imperfections. I don't know, but I found it incredibly insightful and emotionally affecting. There is a lot of strength in Randy. I have a lot of respect for people like that, who can at least be up front about who they are, who apologise for mistakes and always try to improve and learn, who are passionate and hard-working and generous. Maybe that's the miracle that those qualities still exist in Randy even with what he's been through. Maybe he was a complete jerk in the past. But it's very sad seeing a kind man trying to pick up the pieces so many years later. He's very hard on himself and I related strongly to that.

Of course, Mickey Rourke is really great in the main role and it's fascinating how it parallels his own career comeback. It does seem to give it a deeper resonance. Darren Aronofsky was already an interesting filmmaker after Pi and Requiem for a Dream. With The Fighter and The Wrestler, I'd say he's one of the most insightful directors when it comes to portraying the human condition. Our flaws, relationships, triumphs and mistakes.
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Not as perfect a film as is being said, but a great character study that subverts the sports genre to be suitably drab and real (which is a compliment)
bob the moo23 January 2009
After the imagination and creativity shown in The Fountain, The Wrestler initially strikes the viewer as a bit of a disappointment because director Darren Aronofsky appears to have gone to the other extreme of style and has delivered a film that is very much in the real world, with no flights of fancy and no real visual flair to it. However in the same way as The Fountain was about the heart of the central male character, The Wrestler is the same, just with a totally different character struggling with a totally different set of emotions. As a faded wrestler, Randy "The Ram" Robinson is living in a trailer park where he can barely keep up the rent, during the week he works a manual job in the stock room of a local supermarket and at weekends he dons his costume and takes part in wrestling events in small and only partially filled leisure centres and halls.

The nature of the character has been talked to death already, mainly because of the actor playing him and how good his performance is, but Randy is a fairly simplistic character on paper. Indeed the whole film has a very simple concept right down to the "stripper with the heart of gold", and in different hands this would have been more uplifting than it is but then also less realistic and less interesting. As it is The Wrestler delivers a singularly grim depiction of a man unsure of what to do in life and clinging to the buzz he still gets performing in front of the dwindling crowds even though the personal cost of this is clear in every part of his life. It is almost documentarian in its approach and often the camera is following Randy rather than moving in such a way to inform the viewer (although it does this as well). This makes the film feel very bleak and, like Randy himself, perhaps that it is not really going to go anywhere. Those still looking for a big redemption or sporting achievement have been watching too many generic sports movie and have not been paying attention to the way this is being told.

So what is it about the visually "straight" delivery and grimy and very downbeat story that makes this film worth seeing? Well, the awards chatter will already have told you that because what makes it is the performances that bring the film to life. Without these Aronofsky's twisting of the sports genre looking at faded male hopes would have been an interesting but quite dull affair and I think he knows this which is why his focus is so much on the characters. Much has been made of the parallels between Rourke and his character but such commentary detracts from his performance, which is great. It is not in one dialogue scene or one specific thing he does, but Rourke manages to utterly convince as Randy in his mannerism, the way he carries himself, the small moments of joy he has, the look he has in his eyes and the pain (physical and emotional) that his life has brought him to. That there isn't a clear "Oscar clip" is a sign of how good it is because it is not something he "delivers" so much as "is". The same could be said for Tomei, although again some have detracted from her turn by focusing on the fact that her body is fantastic (which admittedly it is; not "for her age" – just fantastic). She doesn't have as much time to shine but she becomes more impressive when you consider that, on paper, her character is a real cliché that is like a direct shadow of Randy in terms of situation (aging out of the only world she knows). That she makes it better than this is down to how much she gets out of her eyes and face. They work well together but she does feel like she is acting whereas Rourke convinces totally.

Despite what the voters on this site say (the 60th best film EVER! Really?) The Wrestler is not a great film that will blow you away at any point. Indeed I think many people will be surprised by how slow and slightly drab it is. However where it is strongest is in the area it sets out to be all about – a character study. This aspect works thanks to Aronofsky sticking close to his subjects even if it is grim or dull and by getting great performances from the two central performers. As a total film then, I thought it was good but not great and that it has benefited generally from how good Rourke is in it. Worth seeing but don't let the hype mislead you into expecting something that The Wrestler never pertains to be.
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jamesearp-113 August 2009
I get that this film is meant to be an anti climax. I get that it's meant to paint a bleak picture. I get what the film is doing, but to me it's just useless. Mickey Rourke's acting is really good but that's it.

The film doesn't give you any high's or low's, it's all delivered in a linear fashion to the point where i wanted to walk out of the cinema: There is no hope for the guy. There is no glimpse of hope. He is fighting FAKE fights, so there is no sympathy or action. His relationship with his daughter is so cliché it's actually embarrassing. It's like watching 2 hours of Eastenders, you can't take anything good from it and although i know you're not meant to, why would anybody want to watch such a pointless piece of cinema?

It's like going, "hey, let's watch this paint dry... I wonder what's going to happen??"

2 hours later "Oh, it's dry. Guess i'll go out and have some fun then"..

It would have been a major twist if something had actually happened in this film.

Sorry Mickey; great acting, but useless film.
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Let Mickey Rourke rest in peace
three_big_fish10 May 2009
I try not to walk out of movie theatres, always hoping to see at least one or two redeeming features which will mercifully let me think I have not entirely wasted two hours of my life and my money.

Last night would have easily been the first time I walked out of the cinema. Sadly, there was no movie theatre which could be ostentatiously quit! Not even any popcorn crumbs to crunch into the carpet on the way in an attempt to wake the fellow viewers from their stupour.

It was in the peace and comfort of our own home that we watched 'The Wrestler', an unshapely piece of movie junk, floating across the puddle of last year's Hollywood movies.

Usually, when upon checking your watch you realise you're already two thirds through the movie, and there is no clear indication that it is going somewhere else than the first 10 minutes of it suggests, I'd say it's a pretty bad sign. I checked my watch after the first quarter of an hour, forty minutes in, halfway through it, and many, many times more. And every time I paused to wonder why on earth would anyone be willing to put forward money to sponsor a lengthy attempt at explaining why being a muscled, bleached blonde loser is better than just being any other kind of loser.

I don't understand any of the hype that Rourke's and Tomei's performances are garnering. Two stick figurines of a finished wrestler and a stripper with the heart of gold? Boring, oh, so boring. I wriggled and winced my way through the painful, predictable last quarter of the movie. I don't think you could even possibly write a review containing a spoiler for this flick. There is nothing to spoil here. If you have seen at least three movies in your life, you will know straight away where this is all going.
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'Rocky' and 'Milk' it ain't
gpaltrow20018 February 2009
There are many comparisons to 'Rocky' in that this is a movie about a down-and-out athlete with a final chance at glory. Well, as much as Sly made a little film, it was still a Hollywood audience-pleaser. This is beyond gritty, with no qualms about leaving the audience let down. Sean Penn in 'Milk' might deserve the Oscar, but Mickey Rourke may get it. Sean Penn is an Oscar-winner, and while he is at the top of his game, he is still 'acting' in a Hollywood-type film. Mickey Rourke IS The Wrestler. This is a one-time only chance for him to win, since we are basically seeing his real life of the last 20 years play out allegorically. Since Penn has already won, Rourke may walk away with the statue. 'The Wrestler' surprised me with how it failed to pull its punches, so to speak. It was barbaric, rough, claustrophobic, and pathetic. I gave it a 7 because of the balance between Rourke's great performance, and the film's refusal to let us enjoy it. Marisa Tomei was a revelation-- her performance was difficult and fearless. I was with an audience of mostly middle-aged people who couldn't get into 'The Reader' or 'Milk' because they were sold out. The quiet at the end of the film told me they were just hit over the head with a metal folding chair, and were a bit stunned. My girlfriend had to close her eyes at some of the more brutal scenes. This is a tough-as-nails, street, gritty and grimy movie that just isn't for everyone. Thank God for films like this.
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I don't wanna rain on your parade ...
dusan-224 July 2010
I don't want to hurt anybodies feelings here, but I just wonder what is the film reason you can give so high grade to one movie like this? Heartache, heart wrack, heart touching ... that's all nice, we all miss that in a way, but then Southamerican Telenovelas are also deserving 10 out of 10. What about everything else? First of all this film has no plot. The main core of events over here is a Wrestler and his sad life. What suppose to make us nailed to the screen is the mystery if his daughter is going to accept him, is the woman he loves going to be with him and if his sick heart is going to survive all that. I believe that all my neighbors of his age have much more interesting story to tell. And everything about this story is so predictable. Also, Micky Rourke's acting is worst than ever. Did you notice that he has not changed the face expression since the beginning of the movie? Apart from what I think of Mickey Rourke, in this movie he looks like Leather Face from Texas Chain Saw Massacre: there are no mimics, no presence of ordinary acting, no interaction with his surroundings, no energy. Over all, attempt to imply some documentary film elements in the movie is killing it even more because it's hiding some characters and movie dialogs which makes the film even more sterile and dull. If this is what good movie suppose to look like, we got a poor film age coming to us.
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Makes no sense or point
sergage17 April 2009
As I was watching it and it ended I was like "What the fudge? That's it?". This movie made no sense, no point, no impression on me whatsoever. Didn't make me care for or relate to any of the characters. The lack of proper closure made things even worse. What was Aronofksy trying to say? That here's a guy who's life sucks? Lots of people's lives suck! There are certainly people who's lives suck a whole lot worse than his. So what should make him special? Nothing, of course. Same goes for the stripper and the daughter. I'm a big fan of Requiem For A Dream, The Fountain and I'm yet to see Pi, but this was a real downer. And what the heck were those Oscar nominations all about?
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The art of realism
mistarkus26 December 2008
A movie about a professional wrestler is ironically a slice of life tale about a relatable, down to earth, common man. A universal theme of a man who's seen his prime come and go. A man trying to reconcile age with his profession, reconnect with his estranged daughter and form some sort of relationships and romance. Despite being of this extravagantly, oddly, special profession of a wrestler, everyday people will relate to the earthiness felt in this tale and moodily connect with the wintry nowhere Jersey.

We become exposed to the insides of the wrestling world, the fakeness of it, as we watch the "combatants" shake hands and fraternize before and after the bout, and the brutal realism of it, of the excruciatingly painful (even to watch) consensual physical torture just in order to get a rise out of the crowd.

The story doesn't amount to much but it is the art of realism. Effectively filmed like a reality show or home video with a shaky lower budget camera which gave the feeling of rawness, grittiness and simplicity taking us to the Wrestler's level. Simplicity in a movie can be profoundly powerful. But it must not get too simple where substance will be forfeited. This movie just toted that line and rose slightly above the "too simple" threshold.

The poetic feel of an earthy bluesiness transpires from such scenes as when the father and daughter as they try to reconnect stroll along the isolated boardwalks in the wintry Jersey beach. We are enveloped by a delightful melancholy as we become warmed by these soft scenes and the character's gentleness and heart. These scenes contrast dramatically to the wrestling matches and the character's size and identity and underlying macho-ism.

There are some flaws such as lack of development with the supporting characters. You especially wanted to know and feel more for Marisa Tomei's part and the lack of development in her character made it feel a bit empty. It seems far fetched that a Pro wrestler, one with a fan base, supposedly big star decades ago, with posters and action figures, that this larger than life "idol?", is so destitute that he has to live in a trailer (granted I am not familiar with pro wrestler's economic situation). . Maybe this should have been explained more, did he squander all his money, does he not make that much, does he not care to spend it?

The flaws don't scathe the root of the movie, like the pleasure derived when listening to the husky, raw voice of a great blues musician craning out the simplest lyrics, which is the art and poetry of realism
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