The Night Out: The Wrestler (2008), or I Finally Saw It!

1 02 2009
And the Academy Award for Best Actor With Fucked Up Face goes to...

And the Academy Award for Best Actor With Mangled Face goes to...

I saw it, everyone. After what seemed like eons of indecision, we found a theater that carried this movie. If you followed my chronicling yesterday of the Lady Bren and I and our sojourn across the scorched earth of Houston theater-going, you’ll know that it was a hard, long road filled with pestilence and despair trying to find The Wrestler. We could not find a theater at any point that played this movie anywhere nearby, because every theater that did play it happened to suck (I’m looking at you, AMC…). Liken Houston theaters to sand being added as a prominent seasoning on your nachos; it’s a big enough deal to just not even get the damn things.

Luckily, a theater came to our aid in our darkest hour. A theater legendary enough for me to gush about it in explicit detail. And if you live here, you know there isn’t a theater quite like it anywhere. That’s right, I’m talking about the Alamo Draft House. I won’t go into why this theater is so much fun just now, but thanks to this great little place I am officially going to start doing theater reviews as well. You heard it here first! Keep an eye out for this exciting new segment in the weeks to come!

What a great film. The Wrestler is a film by Darren Aronofsky that captures the life of fictional professional wrestler Randy “The Ram” Robinson. InĀ  the 80’s, Randy was a young up-and-comer with a lot of potential and enough charisma and talent to fill up arenas with fans. But he has had a rough life, and has made some bad decisions. He is now virtually all alone, barely remembered, and can scarcely support himself financially. Stuck in the 80’s, fashion-wise, music-wise, and mind-wise, he looks back wistfully on how his life used to be. He lives in a trailer in New Jersey and works at a grocery store part-time, where his weaselly boss regularly insults him. Still performing exhibition matches on the weekends, though, he relives his dreams and helps himself scrape by. After one especially agonizing hardcore match, Randy has a heart attack. Fearing for his life, his doctor tells him that he should not wrestle any more. This incident happened shortly after he was told of his manager setting up a rematch of the fight that made him famous, between him and his arch-rival, an Iron Sheik facsimile named the Ayatollah. Devastated, he is forced to cancel not only the match, but tells everyone that he is retiring. At this point he decides to re-evaluate his life, take some personal chances he never had the courage to before, especially healing his relationship with his estranged daughter. Can Randy turn his life around, or are the decisions he’s made truly crippled him for life, leaving him with nothing but the fans and the ring?

When I hear the word “comeback” in Hollywood, I am always dubious. It rarely happens for good.For every John Travolta, there are countless David Carradines and Burt Reynoldses who make a “comeback” in one movie and then drift on to obscurity. Fame is an elusive thing to grasp, and many people cannot sustain it. So when I hear that Mickey Rourke has made a “comeback” with this movie I remain skeptical. But that is not to say that I do not think he deserves it. His performance I mostly credit to Darren Aronofsky pounding it out of him, but something should be said for the man at least. You are mesmerized by this guy, down on his luck and miserable, and hope against hope that he gets better. He really is a genuinely good guy, and Rourke plays him with a subtlety you would not expect from a monster like Randy “The Ram”. It has been much publicized that this movie somewhat reflects Rourke in real life, and I would not doubt it for a moment, hearing some of the things he has said about his life since his heyday. But let’s just hope he can capitalize on this before we call it a “comeback”.

The supporting cast is very good. Marisa Tomei shines as an aging stripper who begins to fall in love with Randy, and you really believe these tiny moments of love. The only unbelievable thing is that with her still-perfect body, guys are pushing her away at the club because of her age. Please, people, if Marisa Tomei showed up at your door nude, who is going to turn her away? Evan Rachel Wood is Randy’s estranged daughter, and she performs the same hurt character that Evan Rachel Wood always plays, so kudos, I guess. Todd Barry is a definite must-see as Randy’s abusive boss. You can really tell he loves to boss an older, bigger man around, and he is such an asshole you want to punch him just for looking the way he does. Good show all around.

Oh, Darren. You have done it again. After The Fountain, I didn’t think you had anything left in you, but you amaze once again. This is a movie about the subtlety of movements and actions and consequences, and he captures that very well. Notice how Rourke is often followed from behind with the camera, like a fan or a friend. The movie is on his side, and I think Aronofsky went to great detail to let us know that. There are so many little touches here (Randy’s upkeep on himself, his life behind the counter of a grocery store, playing a video game with himself as a character), I cannot go into them all, but this director is someone who notices these things, and hopes we notivce them too.

So, hey! It’s an Oscar-nominated drama with Mickey Rourke getting his ass handed to him by life. How can you go wrong? I loved it, and I think you will too. I give The Wrestler 9 possible “comebacks” out of 10! Check it out!

See you tomorrow, for the Michelangelo Antonioni film Blow-Up!