Sunday, January 25, 2009

"The Wrestler" is a Triumphant Comeback for Mickey Rourke

Sometimes life imitates art. Sometimes art imitates life. Like his character in the film The Wrestler, Mickey Rourke has had a life filled with ups and downs, with career highlights happening in the 1980s. Rourke was Hollywood's leading man with such films as Diner, 9 and a Half Weeks and Rumble Fish. He then got a reputation of being hard to work with and he had challenges with substance abuse. He tried earning a living as a boxer in the early 1990s but had limited success and returned to acting. He had a semi-comeback a couple years ago with Sin City, but The Wrestler has critics hailing him like he has not experienced in a long time, and the film is accumulating many awards and nominations.

The Wrestler is about Randy "The Ram" Robinson, a man who packed arenas in the 1980s but whose career has slowed significantly as he has aged. He still wrestles in small venues but he needs to supplement his income by working in a grocery store. He lives a sad and lonely life in a trailer, when he can afford the rent. One scene has him spending the night in his van since he has been locked out of his home by his landlord. Bruce Springsteen did a song for this film. After watching it I thought of Springsteen's hit from the 1980s-Glory Days, which could easily have been a theme song for this work. The Wrestler is a sad movie that is about past victories, past mistakes, growing old, and the search for happiness in a world which can be cruel. "The Ram" has not been a good father and he tries to reconcile with a daughter he hardly knows. He tries to establish a relationship with a stripper at a club he frequents, played by Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny, Untamed Heart). She is wounded just like he is and she is reluctant to open up her life to him. The Wrestler is about physical pain and the toll that a career in the ring has on the body. But the emotional pain felt by Rourke, his daughter and Tomei is even more devastating.

This film was directed by Darren Aronofsky, who also did The Fountain, Requiem for a Dream and This Film is Not Yet Rated. It has an approval rating of 98% on It is not a film for everyone. It has some violent, gory, disturbing scenes, but it is still a great work which will win many awards.

Here is a quote from the movie when Randy talks to his fans:
I just want to say to you all tonight I'm very grateful to be here. A lot of people told me that I'd never wrestle again and that's all I do. You know, if you live hard and play hard and you burn the candle at both ends, you pay the price for it. You know in this life you can loose everything you love, everything that loves you. Now I don't hear as good as I used to and I forget stuff and I aint as pretty as I used to be but god damn it I'm still standing here and I'm The Ram. As times goes by, as times goes by, they say "he's washed up", "he's finished" , "he's a loser", "he's all through". You know what? The only one that's going to tell me when I'm through doing my thing is you people here.

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