Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

The Wrestler

 

Review by Mark Lengieza

I had not anticipated a film this much since The Dark Knight.  Now obviously, these two films are very different; one is a comic-book superhero movie, the other, a character study of a “beaten down piece of meat” wrestler.  You know I was not let down by The Dark Knight; well, The Wrestler triumphs on just as many levels.

It is hard to write about this film without giving too much away.  I want to tell you about what happens to Randy “The Ram” Robinson.  I want to re-tell his story.  I won’t, but seriously, you need to see this movie.  It is a roller-coaster of emotions that will make you laugh and cry, and I know that is horribly cliché, but I RARELY cry during a movie, and this one drew actual tears.

 

The reason for this is because the movie is so well done that it feels like you are watching a real person.  I know that “The Ram” is not a real person, and the story is fictional, but if someone did not know that going in, I bet that they would never guess that he wasn’t.  Mickey Rourke accomplishes this feat, delivering a masterpiece of acting that comes along only once every few years, if we’re lucky.  He IS Randy “The Ram” Robinson.  The character could not have been played by anyone else.  His performance will stick with me for a long time.  He made me forget I was watching a movie, and drew me in like I was actually watching this man’s life unfold.  That is what acting should do, although it is rarely accomplished.  Hand this man his Oscar on a silver platter.

The term “loveable loser” is one we hear often, normally to describe a goofy, down-on-his-luck character that makes us laugh.  Rourke plays a different kind of loveable loser in this film.  You really connect with Randy Robinson as a person.  You pull for this character, partially because he is a very likeable character, and partially because his life is just so pathetic that you are pulling for his comeback the entire time, another thing that Rourke’s performance, along with the directing of Darren Aronofsky, accomplishes.

Evan Rachel Wood is also really good in the few scenes that she is in.  The conflict between Stephanie Robinson and her father really hits home.  They were, in my opinion, the best scenes in the film.  (If you lose this part of the storyline, the film loses a lot of its meaning and connection, so pay attention if you see this film).  She really conveys her emotions toward her father brilliantly, without overacting, a feat that is often tough to pull off.

The film delves deep into the world of professional wrestling and portrays all of its ugliness.  It starts out with a collage of articles showing The Ram’s glory days of the 1980’s, when he was on top of the world.  The rest of story takes place 20 years later, when he has completely fallen back to earth, his body can no longer hold up and he is working at a supermarket on weekdays, wrestling for small underground wrestling organizations on the weekends.  It shows just how much punishment these athletes take in their years in the ring, and why so many of them die at a young age.

No matter how much punishment these guys take, most really don’t know how to quit, and that is what The Wrestler really focuses on.  Randy Robinson really knows no other way.  He tries to leave it behind, but it has consumed his life for so long that it is all but impossible.  These wrestlers only know one way.  They are performers, and fear the day that they don’t hear the crowd behind them, and this theme comes across in every scene of Rourke’s performance.  He is so desperately clinging to his past and it pulls at your heart-strings so hard you feel like they are going to snap.

I’m not going to give away the ending, but let me say for the entire final scene I had chills.  I don’t know about you, but getting that feeling from a film makes it something special.  This is a special film.  Its only January, and the year has yet to even get going, but this film has absolutely started off my year right.  You can book it for my top 5 of the year; this one is staying with me for quite some time.

5 / 5 stars

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