The Wrestler – Movie ReviewMarch 8, 2009 Written by JP [Font too small?]
In his acceptance speech at the Golden Globe Awards, Bruce Springsteen recounted a phone call he received from Mickey Rourke, the star of the critically-acclaimed film, The Wrestler. Mickey asked him to write the title song for the film. Rourke described the story line and offered his thoughts about the lead character, which he plays. With that information in hand, Bruce proceeded to write just such a song. Here are the opening lyrics he came up with:
“Have you ever seen a one trick pony in the field so happy and free? If you’ve ever seen a one trick pony then you’ve seen me. Have you ever seen a one-legged dog making his way down the street. If you’ve ever seen a one-legged dog then you’ve seen me.”
The song perfectly paints a portrait of Randy “The Ram” Robinson, played by Mickey Rourke. His real name is Robin Ramzinski, but that name is as far gone as the life he used to lead prior to becoming a wrestling star in 1980’s.
20 years is a long time in the career of a professional wrestler. The man that remains today is broken in every sense of the word. His body is busted up and barely held together by an assortment of painkillers and steroids. The fans are mostly gone. Ram has a daughter who hates him because she was abandoned while he pursued fame inside the ring. All that’s left now are amateur wrestling gigs that hardly pay the rent at a rundown trailer park.
But, in even the darkest of times, there is often something to cling to. For Ram, his ray of hope comes in the form of a veteran exotic dancer named Cassidy (Marisa Tomei). She’s a single mother who professes to be all about the bottom-line (money), but can’t entirely squash her feelings of empathy for our battered protagonist. Together, they form a reluctant bond. They’re two fighters struggling to survive with what’s left of their aging bodies.
At the lowest point in Randy/Ram’s life, Cassidy opens her heart and encourages him to use this time to try and make amends with his adult daughter, well played by Evan Rachel Wood. It’s a tall order, but for a man that’s all alone, it’s worth a shot. In one of their first meetings, Randy pleads with his estranged daughter, “I’m an old broken down piece of meat and I deserve to be all alone, I just don’t want you to hate me.”
The Wrestler is a strange beast of a film. There was a period of time when it didn’t have a distributor. Nobody was really interested in releasing a film starring an actor that, in many ways, was considered as dated as the character he portrays. Then, it unexpectedly won the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival.
When all is said and done, this film will clearly be remembered for the unyielding performance given by Mickey Rourke. He literally puts all of himself on the screen. In fact, most of his wrestling scenes are performed without the assistance of a stunt double. His appearance is often quite startling too. This is a role that leaves any remnants of glamor at the curb, right next to the gutter. That’s a bold move since Mickey rose to fame as a “heartthrob” in the 1980s. He starred in such blockbusters as Diner, 9 1/2 Weeks, and Angel Heart.
I recommend The Wrestler to anyone who’s willing to see a “warts and all” account of what sometimes happens to sports stars who never fully grow into mature adults. It’s a sad tale interspersed with a few laughs and moments of genuine poignancy. While watching it, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the obvious compassion and dedication with which it was made. This film was produced by people who really cared about what they had to say and the characters they were putting up on the screen.
Towards the end of the song, The Wrestler, Bruce Springsteen croons, “These things that have comforted me, I drive away. This place that is my home, I cannot stay. My only faith’s in the broken bones and bruises I display.” The lives we get a glimpse of here go far beyond those of a wrestler, an exotic dancer and their circle of acquaintances.. They’re more than their professions, just like we’re all more than ours.
The Wrestler is Rated R for drug content, sexual situations and nudity, strong language and violence. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart.
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