Movie Review: The Wrestler

TheWrestlerThumbby Brad Nelson
I’ll be able to finish writing this review as soon as I find my right eyeball. It popped out the moment I saw Marisa Tomei buck-naked. I know it’s rolling around here someone. Hang on a second…

I really do not like pro wrestling as a “sport.” But Mickey Rourke (geez…is that him?) is making me sympathetic to that particular craft. I’m neither familiar with the drug culture, the tattoo culture, or the Marisa Tomei lap-dancing culture. But this documentary-style film gives one a glimpse inside those things and gives them a quite sympathetic view. Presumably the writers drew upon real-world experiences even though this is a fictional story.

Listen, I’m having honest trouble writing this review. I can barely see the LCD screen. You know how staring at the sun for even a few seconds can leave a bright afterimage in your eyes? The same thing happened when I saw Marisa Tomei. All I see is that afterimage. It won’t go away, and I’m fine with that, but it’s obskuring the werds.

But tits obvious that “The Wrestler” is not just a Big Time Wrestling movie or I would have never stayed with it. Pathos, pathos, pathos. What a portrait of a life that swings between the high of performing inside the ring to the low of sitting alone in your trailer and begging the kid next door to play Nintendo with you. There are great elements to this story, but I’m going to completely agree with what another reviewer said about one element:

Rourke’s relationship with his daughter, though heartfelt, is spiked with too much cliché to be truly engaging. She is the hate-filled daughter who grew up without a father while he plays the immature, absentee dad who lost his way in a multitude of character flaws. These elements weaken the film to some extent but are generally forgivable – especially in light of the fact that Wood features in some of Rourke’s strongest scenes and she holds her own very well for such a young actor.

Maybe there are just oodles of angry daughters out there whose first line to their absentee dads is always “Where were you on my birthdays?” That dialogue seemed highly contrived. But the scene where Rourke’s daughter tells him that she never wants to see him again is believable and extremely poignant. This is a movie that has sympathy up the ying-yang even though the story at times could have used a little punch and/or tightening. And more lap dances with Marisa Tomei.

But this was an entertaining movie all the way through. What it doesn’t do is cheat you with over-sensationalized or gimmicky plot points, although it’s still unclear to me [spoiler alert…turn back now if you haven’t seen this] that Rourke necessarily died at that end which seems to be the consensus opinion. And in dealing with this movie, it may be impossible to extricate Mickey Rourke’s story from that of The Ram, but I will try to do so.

I like Mickey, but I don’t know what the hell he did to himself. I think it was drugs, drinking, and plastic surgery gone wrong. But I did not see this movie as the triumphant return of Mickey Rourke. Hell, I didn’t know it was him for the first half of the movie until I logged onto the web to make damn sure that I was actually seeing Marisa Tomei naked and it wasn’t a body-double, and then I noticed his name attached to this movie too. Besides, I find the story of 44-year-old Tomei to be far more compelling. For someone to look like that and approaching fifty is quite a story. If that was just CGI, please don’t blow my illusions.

And I have to agree with what another reviewer said about the film:

Where is this magical strip club where a hottie like her, with a body like that, is the least attractive girl in the club? Where is this club that she is being turned down?

That was my major problem with the movie, there is no way a girl with a smoking body like that wouldn’t get customers in a strip club. And sorry, but she was way out of Randy’s league. She has a house, a child, some kind of a life.

Randy was a broken down old man living in a trailer (sometimes a van).

But when I was watching the movie and Marissa was going around the club trying to get customers all I could think was “those guys need their papers checked” because no straight guy would turn that down.

Oh well. It’s just a movie. But what an interesting mix of violence, loneliness, dignity, humiliation, excitement, and dullness. The filmmakers were hitting on all cylinders, tweaking every emotion, playing every tune, while never going over-the-top with too much sentimentality or gadgety plot points, although the story here and there could have been tightened up.

The Wrestler is probably not a movie that I would watch again, but I’m glad I watched it once. The whole vibe of the film was an example of adroit filmmaking. In the hands of most, I think this film would have been about the amazing world of Big Time Wrestling. But this was instead a film about people in their jobs, struggling to get by, struggling to have a life, and struggling to make a difference. The WWF angle just makes for a photogenic and interesting backdrop. I mean, a movie about a guy who was only ever a deli clerk might have worked (and that part of the movie was perhaps the best part), but it was interesting to glimpse a bit inside pro wrestling, even though I have absolutely no affinity for it.

I’ll give this one 3.2 staples out of 5. Ouch. And, of course, this is a Mickey Rourke film. But I don’t care all that much about his personal story. He had me at Angel Heart. But Hollywood and humanity love triumphant returns and this is certainly one of those. And I do hope a film like this gives this guy the stability and mental health he needs. • (823 views)

Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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2 Responses to Movie Review: The Wrestler

  1. pst4usa says:

    I suppose I will have to actually rent this one Brad, I saw just a bit of it on TV and not enough to be a fair judge, but I can’t seem to find time to watch much TV anymore.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Glad that you’re busy, Pat. It depends what kind of movies you like. This movie is interesting if you like “grit” and sort of like to watch a train-wreck of a life in slow motion. But I found it charming. And Tomei. Yikes. Just makes sure your eyeballs are firmly pushed into their sockets first.

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