“The Wrestler,” is a story of comebacks. The movie has become a vehicle for star Mickey Rourke to gain attention for his acting once more, instead of his wild child antics. Rourke has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor, and has already taken home trophies from the BAFTA’s and the Golden Globes. The once battered train wreck has proven to audiences and critics alike that he can still carry a movie.
After starring in several successful films in the early 80s, like “Barfly,” “Body Heat,” and “Diner,” Rourke got caught up in the party scene and left his playboy status behind. Then came his professional boxing career in the early 90s—Rourke has admitted that this training helped him immensely when he shot the wrestling scenes in the film. But his boxing career also helped him diminish his pretty boy looks—no longer would Rourke be the stud, but he never could have played this role as a good looking man. The character had to be portrayed as a wreck, a man looking for redemption.
While Rourke’s comeback has been impressive, it is the writing in this film that allows the actor to play the most heart-wrenching comeback of all—his portrayal of Randy “The Ram” Robinson. Randy is a down and out wrestler who was once a famous figure on the circuit, but who now realizes he is much too beaten down and old to keep fighting. He goes through several violent matches, but keeps wrestling because it’s all he knows.
Randy meets a stripper, Cassidy, who becomes his confidante. Marisa Tomei, as the age-old clichéd stripper with a heart of gold, turns out a good performance, but most likely doesn’t quite deserve the Oscar nomination she’s received. Of course, she’s impressive in her pole dancing, but the audience might feel like she can never quite commit to the role.
Aside from Rourke’s tour de force performance, Evan Rachel Wood turns out an equally impressive emotional character as Randy’s estranged daughter. The later scenes between Rourke and Wood help the movie’s hard-edged tone transform into a softer, lighter film in some parts.
The film, written by Robert Siegel (the former editor in chief of The Onion), is a hardcore, draining production. But an outstanding feat of direction from Darren Aronofsky (who also directed “The Fountain,”“Requiem of a Dream,” and the upcoming “Robocop”) helps tie the film together. The film sparks with signs of realness—the movie was shot with a shaky handheld camera. This gives the audience a feeling of unrest much like the emotions experienced by Randy himself. The film was shot in a surprisingly short time—production was completed in 35 days; but altogether, it is a moving film that demonstrates that it’s never too late to start over.