Apologies for no Wednesday update. I had a raging migrane, and I promptly came home from work and slept for 13 hours. Today, though, I feel fine.
I saw The Wrestler one week ago today, and now that I've had time to ruminate on it, I'm posting a review.
The easiest way to sum this film up is to say that it does live up to the hype. Quite frankly, I haven't seen Milk, but Sean Penn must've put on an amazing performance for him to beat out Mickey Rourke for the Academy Award. Mickey Rourke put on the performance of a lifetime as has-been '80s wrestling superstar Randy "The Ram" Robinson. You truly believe that wrestling is this man's life. He loves it, and when he's performing, it's the only time he feels truly alive.
The film follows Randy as he readies for the prospect of a rematch against The Ayatollah, his opponent 20 years earlier at the film's version of Wrestlemania III. The event is being run by real-life east coast promotion, Ring of Honor, and as such, features cameos by many real life wrestlers. Ernest "The Cat" Miller plays the Ayatollah himself, and wrestling fans will catch R-Truth, Austin Aries, Necro Butcher and many others making appearances in the film.
The reason "The Ram" is so anxious for this rematch is because his life has become a shambles. He lives alone in a trailer park, he's estranged from his daughter, he works in a supermarket and the only person that's anything remotely close to his friend is a stripper named Cassidy (played brilliantly by Marisa Tomei). His only joy is stepping into the ring for various indie promotions on the weekends.
The film is shot in a documentary style, and has a feeling of documentary reality. There's very little music, with the exception of scenes that take place in locales that would be playing music, and much of the camera work is handheld. The viewer really feels the bleakness that goes along with the lifestyle of trying to recapture one's glory days.
Quite frankly, as someone who spent quite a lot of time wrestling, the movie hit me a way I somewhat expected and somewhat didn't. I've been on wrestling shows with guys whose best days are behind them, and I've watched them do their best to recapture that glory, and... well, it's pretty sad. The film captures this feeling perfectly.
That being said, the film does have a few shortcomings, but they're mostly things only a huge wrestling geek would notice. The most prominent being that "The Ram" and the Ayatollah are supposed to be washed up, in spite of having headlined Not Wrestlemania III. Well, we know who headlined the real Wrestlemania III, and one of them isn't exactly in the poor house, and the other has passed away, but the one who passed away wasn't exactly in danger of having to wrestle on indy shows to pay the bills any time before he died.
But that's nitpicking. Overall, the film is excellent. A great, if not horribly sad, film in every respect. If you're a wrestler or a wrestling fan, you owe it to yourself to see this film.