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The Wrestler

Movie title: The Wrestler (2008)
Grade: A+ (4 stars)
Rated: R
Summation: An 80s wrestler runs into hard times and must cope.
Spoilers ahead: No

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Sometimes there is no going back. It's possible to make so many mistakes and tread down a path so far that there is no redemption. At such a point, you can only see yourself through to the other side. That's the message in The Wrestler, a stunningly constructed story of fictional wrestler Randy "The Ram" Robinson.

You might stop and ask yourself how interesting a movie about a druggie wrestler's immoral life can be, but don't wonder about that. It's compelling alright, depressing but compelling.

What fascinates me so is its unpredictability. When so many directors and writers would spend more of their efforts putting out more of the usual bad-fathers-made-good flicks and the blossoming of unlikely loves, director Darren Aronofsky goes out of his way to make a movie about one's nature and the uniqueness of personhood. Screw redemption! Give me identity!

We can't change, not really. We go through phases, we deny our true selves, only to come back and find out again who we are and what it is we do. We try to be others, to please others, to appease others, but when everyone else fails us, we'll revert back to the way we are. I think that’s how we keep our sanity.

The first-rate dialogue and exacerbating realism took me. Everything is done well—right down to a matter-of-fact store manager named Wayne played by hilarious comedian Todd Barry. You’ve got to step back and take it all in.

A near-has-been 80s wrestler is getting on in years. He’s a steroid-using junkie who is behind on his rent and sleeping in his van—not exactly the destiny of an entertainment icon who signs autographs on his time off! Set for good things and prosperity, he throws it all away for a trailer park trash lifestyle. And he's estranged from the daughter he loves. He wants to change that, but it’s going to be hard. She’s got a life of her own now, and mentally going back to rougher times is hard for anyone.

Beat-up and scarred-up old Robinson knows how to entertain. And he’s good at it in the ring. He's done it a long time with the fellow wrestlers who are his family. But he’s not above working in a supermarket to help make up for the massive amounts of money lost to a detrimental and costly lifestyle. Makes you wonder how far he would go were his life not in such disarray.

In The Wrestler, Mickey Rourke as Randy Robinson puts on a superb performance. And it's tough to play an appointment-missing, strip club-frequenting addict who loves the ladies and rock music without overplaying it. Marisa Tomei – always a compliment to any film she’s in – is a stripper, but not just any stripper. She is the object of his affection. His daughter Stephanie Robinson (Evan Rachel Wood) has been hurt by dad one too many times. She's young and maybe she has issues, but with regard to dear old dad, she's not to blame. Dad's done a lot of people wrong, and there's no way around that.

The ever-present dark and dank feel is the only bone to pick with the film. The storm cloud of sadness that hovers over Randy everywhere he goes rubs off on the whole work. Too many viewers will find it a downer, and they shouldn’t see it. But to everyone else, welcome to The Ram’s world!

To some, watching others self-destruct is a loathsome thing. To others, it's an object lesson in human nature. And me, I want to learn more. Any happy-go-lucky fool can reminisce about the good times and make plans and dream big. It takes a different caliber of individual – a realist – to prepare for a life of pain when the plans we make fail and when we wake up to find that those big dreams we had never came to be.

(JH)

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Director: Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Mickey Rourke “Randy 'The Ram' Robinson,” Marisa Tomei “Cassidy,” Evan Rachel Wood “Stephanie Robinson,” Mark Margolis “Lenny,” Todd Barry “Wayne”
Genre: Drama

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