title probably is meant to be deeper than telling us the movie's
about a guy who wrestles. Which is what it is. Wrestler could
represent some deeper meaning othan just squaring off in the
squared circle. Maybe pile-driving one's conscience, or giving
the suplex to the demon thoughts of life's meaning, or having
your nagging doubts about self-worth clothesline you from the
top rope. Hollywood does that sort of shit, you know, come up
with that deeper meaning. Usually pretty ham-fisted. It makes
them feel like they're a Goddamn Immanuel Kant or something
when they're taking a dump.
There isn't a lot
of introspection to The Wrestler, though. It's a straightforward
story of a once-famous fighter (Mickey Rourke) who is aging--not
too gracefully--forced to face his mortality and what he's lost.
In his thirties, he was the featured event of pay-per-views
and on the cover of magazines. Now in his fifties, Rourke's
"Randy the Ram" hangs on, performing on weekends in front of
a couple hundred people in Elk Lodges and high school gymnasiums.
After suffering a
heart attack, Rourke learns he can no longer wrestle. Doing
so could kill him. This strips the man of his one purpose, and
he can barely stand life without the adoration of a crowd. Absent
his weekly grappling, Rourke tries to reconnect with his estranged
daughter (Evan Rachel Wood). Except, he fucks that up and she
tells him she never wants to see him again. He also tries to
find companionship in the arms of a stripper with a heart of
gold (Marisa Tomei). Ultimately, though, he needs the roar of
the crowd and admiration of the other wrestlers. He even tells
us so during a corny speech prior to his farewell wrestling
performance. And it's not farewell because he's retiring. It's
farewell because, well, remember what the doctors told him?
Mickey Rourke is
really fucking great in this movie. He's nothing short of fantastic
and genuine. The guy looks like an old wrestler, except his
entire face seems to have been injected with botox or something.
It's permanently swollen and immobile. His lips barely move
when he speaks. Still, the guy expresses more sadness than the
Harelip did after she dropped her Percocet down the storm drain
and then got her shoulder caught in the grate until the cops
dragged her away. And he does it with way less screaming. He
nails the sorrow of a character that isn't smart, believes his
favorite stripper cares about him, wants to be happy, can't
understand why his aging body is betraying him, and destroys
his chances for happiness in exchange for instant pleasures
and cheap gratifications that keep the sorrow at bay. In his
fifties, Rourke's wrestler still shoots up steroids, pretends
it's the 80s, can't pay his rent but can splurge on a lapdance.
You can see how he would have no money saved from his glory
years because it probably never occurred to him that they'd
stripper is pretty undeveloped, as all strippers-with-hearts-of-gold
tend to be. In fact, if you meet a real stripper who pretends
to care about you, it's because she's going to take you into
an alley so an associate will beat the shit out of you and take
your wallet. When Tomei falls in love with Rourke, it doesn't
feel legit The only thing he has to offer her is a need for
pity, and what single mom has time for that? It is a mechanical
necessity of the script. When she quits her job mid-danceto
be iwht Rourke, it's a moment out of a much, worse, cheesier
movie. Still, Tomei seems sad enough, and aware that she's no
longer young. She reminds me of a saying: all unhappy strippers
are unhappy in the same way; and happy strippers are each happy
in their own unique drug-induced stupors. There was one I met
in Vegas once named Gemni (she removed the "i", not me) who
told me she knew she wasn't an alcoholic because she only got
drunk at work (Goldschlager and a beer back). She also wrote
poetry so powerfully sad that it made her cry, and her friends
refused to read it. Oh, and she had two kids with genetic heart
defects alone at home. We didn't talk about her being molested
as a child, but only because I was out back getting the shit
beat out of me.
Tomei is 44 years
old and, holy shit, she has really nice-looking tits. Man, I
wish all girls that age looked that good, and were willing to
show them off like this. That's exactly what I need to convince
me to pay for subscription to a MILF site, rather than just
look for free samples.
The main problem
with The Wrestler is not the acting. It's that Tomei
and Rourke are surrounded by a tired story and an overly sentimental
climax. After Rourke has his heart attack, the ending is obvious.
Director Darren Aronofsky makes it even more obvious by having
Rourke repeatedly clutch his chest during the big wrestling
bout. His interaction with his daughter Wood has a few nice
moments, but it isn't authentic, either. It plays out too Lifetime
Channel. Wood has a thankless job of just acting very sad without
a personality, and the equally thankless task of giving in quickly
to Rourke, just so his fuckup can hurt her.
I have no idea if
there is a golden age of wrestling. Probably everyone thinks
it was when they were a kid. What I do know is that The Wrestler
is rooted in the characters of my youth. Rourke could be playing
Ric Flair, Randy "Macho Man" Savage, the Ultimate Warrior, Ted
Dibiase or Paul Orndorff. All of whom I watched beat up on B.
Brian Blair at the Olympic Auditorium on Saturday mornings.
I haven't spent any time seeing how debilitated and sad these
old characters are today, but the movie feels like it's probably
close to the reality. Maybe it's closest to Flair, who still
thinks he can wrestle as he pushes sixty. That's just fucking
creepy. The movie's fights scenes are excellent, visceral and
cringe-inducing. It's like Aronofsky is going for a wrestling
Raging Bull and mostly succeeds. However, the action
in the ring takes up a hell of a lot of screen time. Wrestling
just ain't that interesting to me.
I want to tell you
some cute and vulgar story relating my own concerns about mortality.
I can't, though, for two reasons. First, I've given so much
joy to my community that I'll never be sorry for my life. The
smiles on adult's faces when I fall off my bike or vomit in
a planter are precious moments I will always cherish. The public
service I provide when I speak to kindergartners as part of
the Arvada Police's "Scared Straight" program is a gift. Second,
I'm immortal. I will never die. If I thought I would, I'd go
to the doctor about the growing lump in my armpit and the increased
difficulty breathing. But I don't need to worry about that shit
because I won't ever get old or die. Me and Wilford.
If I were worried
about mortality, though, and the sort to reflect on the meaning
of life, The Wrestler would be a decent reminder to find
my purpose. Three Fingers.
to tell Filthy Something?