The Wrestler review by Cinema Guru Boy

What happens when a professional wrestler retires? People tend to think of them as celebrities, and celebrities tend to be rich, right? They should live out a nice cozy life, no problem. Unfortunately, that's not the way it works. Most wrestlers, who aren't Hulk Hogan or The Rock, don't roll in the millions, they're making a decent living, but not what a celebrity calibur star usually makes. Pulling $70,000 a year is nice enough money, but this is an industry without unions, thus without any insurance plan or 401k. If a pro wrestler doesn't put enough away to last forever, they're in trouble. And this isn't exactly the type of job where you can just keep working. Once your body can't handle the schedule or fans lose interest, that's it. You're done. But what does that matter, since pro wrestling is all fake anyway?

The Wrestler shows these themes well, as we see a man well past his prime just trying to get by. Robin Radzinski (Mickey Rourke), or as the masses know him, Randy "The Ram" Robinson, was a star 20 years ago. But 50-year-old men don't have a place in professional wrestling. So he's eking out a living wrestling on the independent circuit and working a crappy job at the local New Jersey supermarket, being pushed around by a prick boss, which is something we all can relate to. That really pretty much sums up this movie. The Wrestler is not dependent on plot at all, this is a character study of a man dealing with realizing his body won't allow him to do the one thing he loves to do. Wrestling is a young man's game. So what's The Ram to do? try and get by on a crappy wage at the supermarket? Not much else is going well for him either. His love interest, Cassidy (Marisa Tomei) has a strict "No dating customers" policy. His estranged daughter, Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood), hates him. His boss doesn't have a shred of respect for him, looking down on professional wrestling the way most holier-than-thou jerk do, as he sees it as the hobby of white trash. You know who appreciates him? The fans. That's it. But he can't tap that well much longer. He's just to old to do it for them much longer.

This creates for a fascinating dichotomy that The Ram must endear. How do you love something that is destroying you? This is a statement that can be said not only wrestling, but of Stephanie, his daughter. This can be said of Cassidy, his love interest. This is a theme that is plenty complex, and Mickey Rourke embodies it in such a way he comes across as such a common everyman, while showing the charisma that has elevated his career in the ring. This is something most actors would be incapable of doing nearly so well.

Which brings us to Cassidy. This theme of getting too old for your job, of your body not allowing to you to compete in a younger person's profession, is just as abundant in her life. As an exotic dancer, Cassidy is a 40-year-old woman who has the demeaning occupation of practically begging men for money. Not to mention, there are 22-year-old women who are asking these men for those same dollar bills. Things just aren't cutting it for her. Once you're stuck in an industry for so long, it's almost impossible to make a severe career change, and this traps us into these jobs we just can't perform any longer. This is such a relatable theme, it does wonders for this film. [For the record, Marisa Tomei is still the reigning Most Gorgeous Woman Ever.]

Possibly the strongest point of this film is the respect and honesty it brings to the professional wrestling industry. It doesn't look down upon it, as the only character who insults it is the token prick boss. It celebrates the passion that these events inhibit, both by the wrestlers and by the fans. This isn't some low-brow white-trash entertainment. This is just another hobby that fans can feel good about cheering on. Yet at the same time, it doesn't insult anyone by trying to pass it off as a legitimate competition, but still shows the resepect to the wrestlers for the athletic performance necessary to wrestle a match. Yes, the outcomes are fixed. Yes, it's cherographed. But men are still being kicked in the face. Men are still being split open with barbed wire. This is a dangerous dance these men are dancing for the benefit of wildly passionate fans. And outside the ring, backstage, The Wrestler portrays an atmosphere that seems so authentic, it could be almost a documentary. With such a casual use of the jargon, and the relationships the wrestlers have with one another, to the prevalent presence of addictive drugs (namely the pain killers these men need to make it through the day), this scene has been crafted to perfection.

Darren Aronovsky has to be thanked for this. His mastery of creating a visual protrayal of these intricate, yet relatable, themes is done with all the tact one can ask for. Most filmmakers wouldn't dare approach a film with such a content matter as something as laughable as pro wrestling without adding a wink to the audience, and the fact that Aronovsky didn't do so says something about him that must be seen as commendable. His visual style is one that lends itself to such a feeling of reality, that with hand-held cameras that come out a bit shaky and the use of unfocusing the lens at just the right times, this really feels very documentary-esque, and that does such wonders for this film.

Yes, this movie had its detractions. Some of the moments Randy had with Stephanie came across as a bit cheesy. And his relationship with her was a bit too much. Their highs went too high too abruptly. And their lows dipped too far too steeply. It seemed a little bit awkward. But not enough to really hurt the film too much. His relationship with Cassidy was handled perfectly. All the wrestling, in and out of the ring, was impeccable. This was the movie wrestling fans have been waiting for, after suffering through No Holds Barred and Ready to Rumble. And frankly, non-wrestling fans should easily find the character's arc something to enjoy as well. It was raw, gritty and dark. So enless you want to see kittens and rainbows, this one it worth the two hours.

But, that's just, like, my opinion, man.

9 out of 10 Jackasses
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