The Wrestler | Eastern North Carolina Now

    Publisher's note: When you finish this Wyatt review, please spend a few moments using our Movie Database, and feel welcome to return. Nearly everything important to movies, plus great images are there.

Nearly the "Champ," but without the Kid

    Director Darren Aronofsky's near remake of "The Champ" is an important film in the measure that it examines the life of the lost and the forgotten, after enjoying a small piece of the "American dream." Randy "The Ram" Robinson, portrayed with the depth of insight of a profound empathy by Mickey Rourke, has tasted professional wrestling fame and now knows the depth of despair as a "washed up, has been," with a distinct inability to understand and cope with his unique obstacles in the vast array of our collective human existence. And understanding Randy's obstacles will take great sympathy of empathy from the audience to fathom the dead end existence and probable future that confronted him every single day.

    "The Wrestler's" audience is asked to participate in Randy's dead end journey, and I warn you, many of you will not want to take that ride. That ride will take you down a dull, desperate and despairing path that will depress some of you and inspire others. In this story there is no middle ground, just like there are no comfortable answers for Randy "The Ram." He is going down for the count and there is no proverbial cavalry rushing over the ridge to save the day.

    That is the conundrum of this compelling tale: which came first, the ill considered life choices or professional wrestling? Was it the fact that Randy was never that intelligent in making choices, or did the constant grind of working the ring just beat the snot out of him to the point of punch drunkenness? Regardless, he lives in a word of lockouts of living space, and lockouts of meaningful love from anyone, save his growing group of broken down wrestler buddies, with whom he competes, that could possibly suffer from the same predicament as Randy.
Mickey Rourke shows the torn edges of a battered life in his extreme method approach to playing Randy "The Ram" Robinson: Above.

    This burly band of miscreants are reminiscent of Gladiators, with whom there is no freedom from the mistakes they have made, that have given their lives little purpose other than what they take from the wrestler's ring. In watching this group that not only accepts Randy "The Ram," but treats him as a celebrity, one wonders just how socially damaged the collective lot of them are. The lifestyle that many professional wrestlers understand is one of: pain and power, painkillers and strength enhancing anabolic steroids, amphetamines to keep up their pace and barbiturates to take them down so their beaten bodies can rest. Their occupation is subject to their performance and for many that depends on their access to medication. The question is: how long can their bodies keep that up?
Whether he is dishing out the punishment or taking it, Randy "The Ram's" life is a bitter pill for all the pounding he takes and delivers, inside and out of the ring: Above and below.

    What is painfully clear is that "The Ram's" best days are behind him. It has been over 20 years since his "time in the sun" as the champion of professional wrestling. From that point, and with no explanation in the film, it has been a slide downward into the wrestlers' world of has-beens, and those that never will be. Randy, after plenty of pain and blood, is allowed to win the matches, where he performs in high school gyms and small civic centers. He is their champion, and their champion is losing the only quality he has left in his beaten up life and his beaten down body - his heart.

    Randy's social life revolves around a seedy strip club, where his only friend, outside of wrestling, is Cassidy (her stripper name), portrayed mostly in the nude by Marisa Tomei. His estranged daughter is a Lesbian and hates him for a variety of reasons, not least of which was leaving the family because his world could not mesh with fatherhood and family. Upon his attempt at reconciliation, he tearfully imparts to his daughter, Stephanie played by Evan Rachel Wood: "Now, I'm an old broken down piece of meat."
Marisa Tomei, as the mostly nude Cassidy, is truly the stripper with "the heart of gold:" Above. The other woman in "The Ram's" life is his estranged daughter, Stephanie, played by Evan Rachel Wood: Below.

    Two nights later when Randy is more than two hours late for a dinner date with his daughter, Stephanie imparts to dad, "There is no more fixing this. It's broke, permanently. And I'm Okay with that. It's better. I don't ever want to see you again." Now turning to her father, she continues "Look at me. I don't want to see you. I don't want to hear you. I'm done! Do you understand? Done." She rises and moves to the door, opens it and declares, "Get out."
In Randy's world, there is much conflict and confrontation, inside the ring fighting and outside of the ring living: Above and below.

    Randy for all his faults has the capacity to love others. He is just not very good at being loved by others.

    And to this end and to the end of all that Randy "The Ram" Robinson is and will become, "The Wrestler" is a tough film to watch. There is no soundtrack to speak of, except a Bruce Springsteen ditty as the credits roll. The dialogue is both good, and at times painful in its service to the raw diction of the lower class of our American citizenry. It is however; a story that we have all lived with, as professional wrestling has been, and is a staple on television, and in large and much smaller arenas across the American landscape. If one has ever wondered what has become of these battered human beings, this is an honest story of the pain and suffering, and eventual loss of ego of those who never quite attain a piece of the American dream.

    Publisher's note: When you finish this Wyatt review, please spend a few moments using our Movie Database, and feel welcome to return. Nearly everything important to movies, plus great images are there.

    Warning: This is as far from a "Chick Flick" as you can possibly get. If the wife or girl friend just doesn't get it ... well, that's probably a good thing. In most cases, that's a good sign that she is possibly normal. Nothing about Randy or his world was.

    Rated R. 109 minutes of runtime. Released on DVD April 21, 2009.

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