The Story: Randy “The Ram” (Mickey Rourke) is an aging former wrestler who’s still trying to capture his former glory. A favorite on the convention circuit and set for a 20-year reunion rematch with a former adversary Randy is close to a comeback. Things take a drastic turn though when he suffers a heart attack and is told a final match could kill him. In giving up his wrestling life Randy tries to reconnect with his estranged daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) and a stripper, Cassidy (Marisa Tomei) who understands him.
Pros: As much as I love Milk I wish I had seen this before doing my Best Movies of 2008 list. The Wrestler is easily a close tie for number 1, number 2 definitely, the movie is that amazing. As a huge fan of director Darren Aronofsky I didn’t expect anything short of brilliance (I thoroughly enjoyed The Fountain despite the critics) and he more than delivers. From the hilarious score of 80’s hair band music that proves how out of touch Randy is, the brutal wrestling violence, everything is perfect. I’m not a pro wrestling fan by any stretch and missed out on glory days of Hulk Hogan but The Wrestler is interesting for fans old and new. If you didn’t know how pro wrestling matches are “fixed” this movie shows you. I loved the scenes with the wrestlers discussing which moves they can take and vice versa, really giving you a behind the scenes look at the whole thing. The fans are also highlighted with both young and old coming out to see these former macho men. Every story is tight and adds another layer to this movie from Randy’s job in a grocery store to Cassidy’s motherly exposition, nothing felt frivolous or out of place. While most Oscar geared films are not ones you really expect to buy and watch over and over, The Wrestler is a movie that isn’t just Oscar bait, it’s entertaining. I could buy this movie and just watch it on a whim; it’s not overtly depressing or dark. Males will particularly enjoy this movie with the copious amounts of violence and the brutal wrestling tactics, while women will enjoy the engaging story of redemption and finding an identity in the world. Much like Milk, the ending of The Wrestler will choke you up but it’s not a tragic or downer ending, it is a satisfying conclusion that will leave you happy, not mopey.
Cons: The only negative thing I have to say about The Wrestler is that I wish Aronofsky had developed the relationship between Randy and his daughter Stephanie a bit more. I’m not sure if it’s because Wood plays the character so mean or what but she didn’t seem very likeable and the backstory was glossed over. It didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the movie and I understand its necessity to the plot but I got to include something here.
Acting: Mickey Rourke will get nominated for an Oscar, I guarantee it! His portrayal of Randy “The Ram” is at times hilarious, sweet, and heartbreaking which is something I didn’t expect from the actor. Not only does Rourke go through a complete physical transformation with his body, but he makes The Ram more than just a guy who likes to beat up people. He has a personality and he’s a very relatable and likeable guy. The ending is heartbreaking because you don’t want to see bad things happen to this guy because he doesn’t do anything wrong. Marisa Tomei is just perfect in this movie. I hadn’t seen her in awhile but she just blew me away as Cassidy. Men everywhere will love that she takes her stripper role to heart, but she even says that she’s more than that. Hopefully Tomei will be recognized in some capacity. Evan Rachel Wood is okay as Stephanie but her makeup is still in that Dita Von Teese style since she was dating Marilyn Manson at the time so she does seem a bit jarring to see opposite Rourke. She also had a huge tendency to spend the movie screeching her lines.
Overall: I adored The Wrestler and consider it a must-see movie period. The second best movie of the year I urge everyone to go out and see it. I give it a perfect 5/5.