The Wrestler is Aronofsky’s latest film and quite a departure from his earlier work. The film follows a washed up wrestler who is twenty years past his prime. The material of the film is far from pretentious as Aronofsky’s earlier work. The Wrestler has an intimate documentary style feel that echoes back to the realist masterpieces of John Cassavetes. A down and out looking Mickey Rourke stars as the wrestler. It is as if this role was made for Rourke. How the pretty boy rebel of Rumble Fish could look the way Rourke does in The Wrestler borderlines on the tragic.
“Professional wrestling” is something of a joke to most Americans. The abrasive matches feature redneck and lowbrow theatrics that have gained a certain unflattering notoriety. Wrestlers are like modern day barbarians that have taken up the carney trade. Like the wrestler in The Wrestler, wrestling is the only job these individuals forgotten in time can actually do. Instead of raping and pillaging villages, they have to make a living destroying their bodies through other means. In our politically correct and estrogen driven modern day world, the alpha male warrior just seems to have a hard time getting a job doing abstract office work. The Wrestler makes it clear why.
Mickey Rourke plays Randy “The Ram” Robinson, a wrestler who has come to the conclusion of his career and even his life. His lesbian daughter hates him, his stripper love interest won’t date him, and a heart attack has made it impossible to wrestle. Randy is a man that is stuck is his past wrestling “glory” days. He still sports shitty bleach blond Viking hair and listens to atrocious "hair metal." In fact, the soundtrack of The Wrestler features music from Ratt and Guns N Roses. These tunes noticeably transplant wrestler Randy to the great days of his wrestling prime. These scenes are easily more depressing to watch than any other “dramatic” scene Darren Aronofsky has directed before The Wrestler.
Wrestler Randy shares a similar lonely and degrading life to his stripper love interest. Both individuals sell and exploit their bodies for the amusement of rednecks and other lowlifes that enjoy the cheapest of entertainment. Despite their lack of a real relationship, Randy and the stripper seem to share a close understanding of one another. The personality that they project while working is quite different from their true selves. Hollywood films very rarely have such complex yet uneventful romantic subplots. Darren Aronofsky has slightly redeemed himself from the boring junkie relationship between Jared Leto and Jennifer Connelly in Requiem for a Dream.
The Wrestler makes me wonder if Darren Aronofsky stumbled upon a fluke in his filmmaking career. Never would I have thought that the director was capable of a truly powerful or quality film. Also, I wonder why Aronofsky chose to tackle the subject matter of the wrestler. Director Darren just doesn’t strike me as someone that has an interest in good ol’ sweaty wrestlin’. Mickey Rourke, however, is really what carries the film. Rourke, like The Wrestler, seems to very broken and miserable far past his glory days. With this acting performance, Rourke gave it his all in the most pitiful of roles and he must be commended.