Washed up, broken, battered and bloody…But good!

The Wrestler

When I first heard about this film, my immediate reaction was to slap my forehead and go, “aiiii! Not another Darren Aronofsky film!” And as usual, it was being praised left, right and centre. Requiem for a Dream had left me furious and I still have seizures from watching ‘The Fountain’ so skepticism was all I had for this film. But everyone was calling the film ‘brilliant’. In fact, they even called Mickey Rourke’s performance ‘brilliant’! MICKEY ROURKE?! “Oh come on!” I actually thought the guy was dead. Yes, I’ve watched Sin City (well, half of it, before I threw the DVD out the window). But I thought they’d recreated him digitally or something as a tribute to the…err… deformed actor.

After I read the New Yorker’s review of the film (part of it) I decided to watch it. I finally got my hands on the film and watched it – expecting weird camera angles, split screens and ghastly visual effects, but none of that was there! And twenty minutes into the film, I found myself thinking, “Hey, this isn’t bad at all!” twenty minutes later I was thinking, “Hey, this is pretty good!”

 

Review

Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler finds the director shedding his pointlessly fancy camerawork and garish special effects to focus on something far more basic and essential – storytelling.

The Wrestler opens up with a montage of images about this really great fighter called ‘Randy The Ram Robinson (played by Mickey Rourke).’ It shows off all his achievements, proving to the audience that ‘The Ram’ was THE wrestler of his time. However, the story takes place twenty years later, long after his peak. It opens up with a broken, battered fighter, trying to pull his way through life. He still wrestles, but the wrestling scene is no longer what it was and though the fans still cheer him on, there aren’t nearly as many as there were in the past. His life is merely a smudge of what it was, twenty years earlier.

A number of people write the film off as ‘unoriginal’. I can understand how the film would appear to be just another sob story. Elements like Randy’s relationship with his estranged daughter (Evan Rachiel Wood) and how the only place he finds love and solace is in the arms of a stripper (Marissa Tomeii) could be seen as clichéd. However, I must say, that though the elements aren’t original, they have been used adequately. If you look at films like Black and Taare Zameen Par (I’m talking about unoriginal elements). They get so damn soppy, that by the end of the film, your television short circuits from water damage! In this film however, the elements are far more subtle. Rourke perfectly portrays the dim-witted, struggling, broken, disfigured wrestler. After a while, you genuinely start to feel sorry for him. And not in the way the buck-toothed dyslexic boy in Taare Zameen Par arm twists you into crying for him. You actually start to feel for The Ram. And you feel this without his character being shown as a perpetual victim.

But what is most striking about the film, is the depiction of the wrestler. You have a fighter, who works his body to the fullest, pumping it with steroids, beefing himself up, trying the utmost he can to achieve that bulk. For a while it works out fine. He’s a god when he’s in the ring. The fans cheer him on and the feeling is incredible. They’ve come to watch him doing what he does best. But the tragedy is that his skill is confined to putting his body through a routine of pain. That’s ALL he knows. Once he passes his peak, he’s nothing more than a bulky individual who’s really not good for anything. He lives alone in a trailer, with hardly enough money to keep him on his feet. The only job he can get is with a supermarket, lifting boxes or washing dishes. But simultaneously, making his life pathetic live evident to him, are video games based on him and action figures with his name attached to them being sold in toy stores. In the film, the collective repercussions of his age and all the tampering he has done with his body, catches up with him. After he has a cardiac arrest, he’s told that he cannot wrestle anymore. Hence, he is forced to leave the minuscule fragment of his remembered glory in the ring and get an ordinary job. Once he does, he becomes a regular guy – only less qualified.  Even the semblance of respect he once had is left behind in the ring.  Now his life can be simplified into an equation:

Wrestling + x = The Ram’s Life (where x is an incredibly tiny fraction – and where wrestling itself is nothing but putting your body through a painful routine, for the pleasure of the audience.)

To worsen things for him, everyday occurrences begin to remind The Ram of his past. For instance, one of the best sequences in the film is when the Ram is walking to his work-spot in the supermarket. The corridors are structured very much like a backstage area, and as he gets closer and closer to his destination, he mentally goes down memory lane, where he can hear the fans chanting his name. The chanting gets louder and louder, until it finally erupts into silence when he goes through the door and all that greets him is a sink full of dirty dishes.

So now, with the wrestling removed from his life, all he has left is the tiny fraction. But he still manages to make some sense out of his miserable existence by trying to patch up things with his estranged daughter and by trying to start a new life with a stripper named Cassidy. But when all that falls through, he realizes the futility of his life. And it dawns on him that he has absolutely no option but to go back to the ring. Heart condition or not, the only context in which his life makes sense, is in the ring. And so he returns for one final fight. The end of film is seemingly open ended, but there is an indication made that The Ram has jumped off the top rope for the last time.

The film also bears some similarity with Ethan and Joel Coen’s, No Country for Old Men.   In the sense, even this film, on a minor level, deals with how the world is only suited for its young blood. In the case of Cassidy the stripper and The Ram, it’s laid on pretty thick. The idea is also reflected in one of the film’s sequences where The Ram attends a wrestler’s convention where he sits at a table and promotes merchandise that based on him. The event is full of The Wrestling Greats – a group of tattered old men that can barely even move. They resemble a set of action figures that were once popular – arms and legs missing, covered in scars. Most of them can barely see anymore.

Of course, one of the less important features of the film, a much lighter, but highly interesting feature, is the depiction of wrestling. People who’ve followed the sport at some point in their lives, people who’ve debated if it’s real or not, arguments like- “The blood IS real!” should all go watch this film. They’ll find it a lot easier to relate to. On the whole, this is by far, one of the best films of the year. 

 

 

 

 

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~ by bharatmirle on January 16, 2009.

7 Responses to “Washed up, broken, battered and bloody…But good!”

  1. Sin City is awesome!
    Go fuck a pig!

  2. you might not want to post that online, though.
    there are a lot of people looking for potential candidates to fill the number one spot on their list of ‘ten stupidest people of all time’.

  3. you can afford to take your chances with the spastics. its the actual spastic society you need to be worried about.

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