The Wrestler (2008) Persona Examined

RATING: 4/5

DIRECTOR: Darren Aronofsky

Randy the Ram (Rourke) is a professional wrestler. It’s all he knows. He’s aged, past his prime and trying to make ends meet. His body has taken too many blows but what can he do, stop fighting or continue in the ring?

the-wrestler_aronofsky_mickey-rourke

This observational drama follows Randy trying to live day by day. He doesn’t live by motivational quotes or self help books, he lives for the day and if he can make it to midnight then it’s a success. He’s an idol in wrestling circles but the minute he walks onto the street he’s a nobody.

He’s a lonely soul that has nobody because he’s perceived as a nobody by those that surround him in the world. Suffering a heart attack after a fight, he’s told never to fight again. That’s like telling Van Gogh never to paint again, all Randy does best is wrestle. He tries his hand at a grocery store but it tests him. He has an estranged daughter who he wants to connect with in Stephanie (Wood) and challenges arise there. Randy is worn and tired though his love of the ring is like sugar that keeps him going back for more. More bruises, more blood, more stapleguns.

Wrestling is a fake sport people say but watching this film makes a viewer realise the amount of pain and anguish a wrestler chooses to bear for their profession. It maybe rehearsed and enemies in the ring are buddies after the match, it’s a game and act. Wrestling is not the only profession examined in this film but the professional stripper. Marisa Tomei plays Cassidy, a local stripper who listens to Randy and keeps him company in the stripclub. They share a rapport together but the issue is that very connection is fake because it’s a paid service for Randy where his needs are being met. The rapport for her can be seen as forced because she’s being paid. As a stripper, she’s the actor and catering to his needs just as he caters to the crowds needs while in the ring.  Can they break that persona?

If Randy is a nobody out there in the world, he’s a somebody in the ring.  This film studies persona, when we are projecting what we want others to see and when we want to show vulnerability. We follow these two characters question whether they like the persona they’ve allowed define them.

The only place I get hurt is out there. The world don’t give a shit about me.

Randy “The Ram” Robinson

Persona and loneliness are examined and director Aronofsky chooses not to make this a grandstanding film that showcases itself. He removes strong heroic Oscar moments out of the story and strips back characters so it becomes a relatable story. His chooses to shoot this film focusing on shots with Rourke. We witness a lot of reaction shots of Rourke hearing bad news, figuring out his mistakes, reflecting on what happened the previous night. All of this adds heaviness to his journey. Randy  addresses his crowd in the ring and he speaks from a place of all he knows. Pain. His character you can argue isn’t a likeable character for the mistakes he has made that the film follows. Sometimes mistakes can be overlooked. Overlooked at what cost? Loneliness and Persona?

CAST:

Mickey Rourke as Randy

Marisa Tomei as Cassidy

Evan Rachel Wood as Stephanie

 

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