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The Wrestler

She's got a smile that it seems to me

Reminds me of childhood memories
Where everything
Was as fresh as the bright blue sky

Now and then when I see her face

She takes me away to that special place
And if I stared too long

I'd probably break down and cry

Sweet child o' mine
Sweet love of mine

Perhaps no song could capture the many different aspects of the film as Randy "The Ram" Robinson's chosen introduction music to his 20th Anniversary match against The Ayatollah in the movie The Wrestler's heartbreaking and excruciatingly painful climax.

Taken in the movie's context, the song could be talking about a multitude of things. "Sweet Child O' Mine" could be about Robinson's estranged daughter, played by the stunning and effective Evan Rachel Wood, with whom she has this on-and-off fatherly relationship with.

It could be about Cassidy/Pam played by a still stunning and still excellent Marisa Tomei in her first Oscar Buzz-worthy performance since winning Best Supporting Actress for My Cousin Vinny. Cassidy is an aging stripper forced into the business in order to care for her kid. She is Robinson's love interest so to speak but a better term would be "partnership interest" as their characters are less about wanting love but rather of not wanting to be alone.

It could be about the wrestling industry as a whole as from Robinson's perspective, he belongs to wrestling and to its fans and no one else. This is his happiness. Performing is his life and the ring is his heaven. Wrestling brings back memories of past glories and brings him to that special place wherein he is The Ram and the fans, his family.

Ultimately, the song is about Randy "The Ram" Robinson himself. He is the Child who brings back memories of people's childhood. Just like any wrestler is to its fans, The Ram is unforgettable and he will always be their Randy "The Ram " Robinson even though he could barely walk nowadays much less perform an enziguri.

The film is hailed as Rourke's comeback movie and a lot of people have been saying that he is basically playing himself in the movie except that the medium of entertainment is different. Comparisons are not way off base since both Rourke and Robinson are struggling performers who have seen much better times. To label it as such however would be wrong. Robinson is not really staging a comeback. There is no glitz in his future. He doesn't even want to be a significant player again. He just wants to be back in the crowd. In his own words, "Look, I just want to wrestle."

Rourke on the other hand wants more significance as an actor these days after nearly destroying himself with his self-imposed hiatus and diving into the boxing ring during the early 90s. Unlike Robinson who if he was an actor would have been content with being in direct-to-DVD fare, Rourke is acting to get out of that rut.

She's got eyes of the bluest skies
As if they thought of rain
I hate to look into those eyes
And see an ounce of pain

Her hair reminds me of a warm safe place
Where as a child I'd hide
And pray for the thunder
And the rain
To quietly pass me by

Sweet child o' mine
Sweet love of mine

Rourke's portrayal of Robinson is extraordinary and one of the few times I've watched a movie where I felt like I was seeing someone give a performance of a lifetime. As a face, a wrestling good guy, Ram is every fan favorite you've watched over the years. In him, you see every one of your wrestling heroes. He is Jake "The Snake" Roberts with the way he walks and with his relationship with his daughter. He is Randy "The Macho Man" Savage, with whom I suspect his wrestling persona is based much on, with his finishing move, the RamJam. He is Rowdy Roddy Piper and "The Nature Boy" Ric Flair with the way he talks to the crowd and with how much respect he commands from younger wrestlers. He is them. The face of wrestling for a time and the face of an over the hill veteran during present times

It's hard not to root for Robinson more so in his daily life than in the ring. You'll love him so much even though you know he will fuck up at some point again. Rourke's portrayal is so effective that you wish that the things they show isn't really what's happening with your beloved wrestling heroes.

Tomei is on the comeback trail herself. After winning an Oscar, roles eluded the actress and at what supposedly was her peak age, had to settle for small roles in small movies or insignificant ones in big ones. She played girlfriend roles when such roles could've been played by anybody.

These roles were beneath her. This fact also led her to The Wrestler which on all accounts was a small movie that had to find a distributor just to be released. Tomei is such a sweet-looking lady especially when she shares screen time with Rourke. She holds her own in every scene and although the role is not the meatiest of parts, Tomei steps on the pedal to the hilt and goes farther than the role could possibly be forseen in the beginning.

Aronofsky shoots the film as if it was a documentary and it could very well have been one and nobody would have noticed. He knows that the story is actually simple and there is no need for theatrics during the filming. What he has given us is a genuine feel of the wrestling world in a sense that it is not a "woe is me" business. Wrestlers do not want you to feel sorry for them. They do not want your pity even though they become cripples and hard of hearing because of the risks they take to entertain you. The scenes are realistic but they were not meant to make you feel bad for them even though at some points, if you had a heart, you would be.

If there is one weak link in the movie, it's that the script is far from original. A prize fighter with a stripper for a love interest? Please. Estranged daughter? Come on. Trying to maintain the glory? You've got to be kidding me. Life threatening disease? Not again!

Yes, the story has been told over and over again and it is almost a cliché to have these situations for the fighter. The sad part is you get the sense that these are the circumstances of Robinson because these ARE the circumstances of a lot of the people in the industry. The story is cliché because this is reality.

There are many scenes in the movie that are difficult to watch because you feel like your hero is in pain in the real sense and not in the wrestling sense. The movie is indeed a triumph in showcasing reality without asking you to feel sorry. The open ending allows the viewer to look for his own final chapter in the story and therefore gives a sliver of hope both to the viewer and the wrestlers being portrayed instead of going for over-the-top drama. Instead of offering up a conclusion, Aronofsky leaves it to the viewer to decide what happens to Randy "The Ram" Robinson and his relationships with his daughter Stephanie, Cassidy, and the Wrestling Industry and its fans.

Where do we go

Where do we go now

Where do we go

Sweet child o' mine

Rating: 9/10


Anonymous said...

wow. that was great review. first let me say that marisa tomei's oscar V was surely an envelope error? but she is brill and i'm glad she has a worthy vehicle. using GnR both in the film and your excellent post has got me exicted. though i doubt i could stomach rourke's appearance for more than 7 minutes or thereabouts. still, i once thought i couldnt read a book about a vampire so..hey. *rushes off to google enziguri.*

Anonymous said...

check out my story about working at the wwe: http://www.halfcute.com/2009/01/im-ric-flair.html

hahaha My Cousin Vinny is one of the best comedies I've seen.
Thanks for the compliments.

Tomei by the way is half naked for most of the film and could probably play a movie anout Diablo Cody.

*crossing fingers*

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