It’s only every once in a great while that you get to see a seemingly washed up actor give an incredible career-resurrecting performance that people will be talking about for years, and Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler certainly gives one of those performances. Director Darren Aronofsky also shows a remarkably amount of versatility with this heartbreaking but supremely engaging character study which has already become one of my favorite movies of 2008.
The Wrestler tells the story of Randy “The Ram” Robinson, a once famous wrestler now doing small time matches just to get by. When he has a hard attack he is faced with the challenge of quitting wrestling and trying to survive in the real world. The plot may seem fairly simple in concept, but it gives us a very compelling journey of a man that cannot seem to get his life together, whether it entails reconnecting with his daughter (played impressively by Evan Rachel Wood) or working in the meat department of a grocery store.
I found the movie to be so effective because Randy “The Ram” is the kind of character you can’t help but root for, and the movie is made all the more tragic by the fact that he never seems to be able to do the right thing. And even though the movie plays off of many of these big revelatory moments between The Ram and his daughter, or love interest Cassidy (a stripper played excellently by Marisa Tomei), the film never falls into gushy sentimentality, it seems very heartfelt and honest, and much of it is thanks to Rourke’s perfomance that certainly contains elements similar to his personal life.
Another great revelation is Darren Aronofsky, he’s certainly known for a much more stylized approach to his movies, but he shows an impecable amount of ability in a small character-driven movie like this. And even though there are a few traces of Aronofsky’s signature touches, they all hit just the right notes in bringing us closer to the protagonist. He also gives us what has got to be the most brutal cinematic depiction of professional wrestling ever put to film. So basically I’d say The Wrestler is a triumph for all involved, I think Rourke undoubtedly deserves an Oscar for his performance and I highly recommend seeing this film.