An Old, Broken-Down Piece of Meat

23 Dec

In the simply-named The Wrestler, Mickey Rourke plays Randy “The Ram” Robinson, a washed-up loser who longs for his 1980s wrestling heyday and is having a tough time dealing with the silence that now surrounds him.

Darren Aronofsky’s beautiful, haunting film is a devastating portrait of this man, left alone to suffer, who claims he only hurts when he’s in the ring, but who can’t help but hurt otherwise.

He longs for connection — with fans, with a stripper friend (Marisa Tomei), and with his estranged daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) — but none comes easily to him, and he refuses to be counted out, even when all the odds are against him.

Shot mostly with hand-held cameras, The Wrestler asks viewers to get closer to Randy than anyone in the film gets to him, to watch as the euphoria of his sport quickly turns to blood and injury, and when that’s gone, to watch as Randy sinks to the humiliation of working at a supermarket deli counter.

It’s not easy stuff to watch, but Rourke makes you really care for the guy and root for him.

Is it because of the actor’s own backstory? Sure. That has to play into it.

And when Randy gives his climactic speech thanking the fans for their support, you try not to shed a small tear. It’s a perfect match of actor and role, and you’ll be mesmerized by Rourke’s performance. He’s that good.

Oh, and as if that’s not enough, when the screen goes to black, Bruce Springsteen’s title song begins. What a great way to end a great movie.

The Wrestler is one of the year’s best. I’m giving it an A–.

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