A couple of nights ago, I finally got to see the Mickey Rourke movie “The Wrestler”. I must admit that the movie was not at all what I had expected, and was actually much better than I had been led to believe. While I am a professional wrestling fan, I feel that the story being told is applicable to many people, irrespective of their career choices.
The story centers around Randy “The Ram” Robinson, a down and out wrestler who once headlined Madison Square Gardens, but is now relegated to wrestling in high school gyms. He is in love with a jaded stripper named Pam, who is played by the still lovely Marisa Tomei (dead on balls accurate!). During the first match, you see Randy cutting himself in the forehead during a match, a technique that I believe they call blading – but I could be wrong.
He lives in a trailer, has little in the way of possessions, and even has a hearing aid. It is as far from the glitz and glamour of the WWE as you can get!
After one very brutal match, back in the locker room you see Randy throw up, clutch his left arm, and then collapse.
He wakes up in hospital, and is told that he has had a heart attack. The doctor goes on to explain that while he can recover and lead a relatively normal life, going back to professional wrestling will more than likely kill him. He then retires, gets a job at a supermarket deli counter, and tries to reconnect with his estranged daughter, played by Evan Rachel Wood. She wants nothing to do with him, despite him explaining that he had a heart attack and was looking to fix his life. She believes that he wants her to take care of her, and refuses to entertain any sort of reconciliation.
Dejected, Ram goes back to the strip club and tries to talk to Pam. Since she is working, she says that she can’t really talk to him, but after hearing about his heart attack, fakes a smoke break so that she could go out to the parking lot and talk to him. He asks for her help in buying clothes for his daughter to make amends, and she gives him some suggestions. After thinking about it, she even offers to help him shop for his daughter. She helps him pick up a lovely coat, even though he picks out this hideous green jacket with a big S on it (S stands for Stephanie, his daughter). They go for a beer, and even make out a bit, but she is too wary of getting involved with a customer, so she backs off.
He meets his daughter and gives her his gift, and they have a sort of reconciliation. She agrees to go with him and he takes her to a deserted casino on the waterfront where they end up dancing. He apologizes to her for being a rotten father, and you can see the emotion written on his face. As they walk back to the van, there is a nice scene where she looks at him, and then links her arm in his, resting her head on his meaty shoulder. Very nice father-daughter moment! They agree to have dinner on Saturday night,
However, when he goes back to the bar to pick up with Pam, they end up in a shouting match which culminates in him asking for a dance. She tells him to f**k off, and he gets kicked out of the bar. Dejected by her rejection (my English is well below par!), he goes to a convention, and ends up doing some drugs and having sex with a groupie who seems to be fixated on firemen! He ends up sleeping through the day, and completely missing out on his date with his daughter. He goes to her apartment to apologize, but that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. She was done and told him in no uncertain terms that she no longer hated or loved him – but she never wanted to see him or hear from him again.
Completely down, Randy goes back to his job at the deli counter, but no longer has any passion for what he does. After an altercation with a fan who recognizes him, Randy deliberately puts his thumb, slicing it open, and then quits his job amidst the blood and a flurry of f-bombs!
At this point, Randy feels like there is nobody in the world that cares about him, so he signs on to do this 20th anniversary show against this faux Iranian wrestler, played by Ernest “The Cat” Williams. Even though his doctor has forbidden him to wrestle, he tells everyone that it was nothing serious, and that he is good to go.
Meanwhile, Pam is at home with her son, and she sees him playing with an action figure of Randy that he had given her for her son. She feels bad about the way that she treated him, and decides to make amends. She finds him packing his van to go on the trip to the wrestling show. She can’t understand why he is doing it, and apologizes for her behavior. He tells her not to worry and invites her to come to the show.
Then we see Randy getting ready to go out, and Pam shows up. She asks him to reconsider, given his recent medical issues. He tells her something along the lines of “it’s people out here who rip my heart up and cause me the most pain – out there is the only place where I am loved”. She continues to plead with him, saying that she was there for him now. He says that he has to go out – that is where people like him belong. Turning his back on her, he goes through the entrance curtains to the sound of Guns ‘n’ Roses’ “Sweet Child o Mine”.
He then gives a heartwarming speech to the wrestling fans about how they were his real family as they were the only folks that stood by him all these years and he really appreciated it. Once the match starts, Randy starts to have some chest pains, and his opponent, Bob, realizes that something is wrong and says that he will finish the match for him (in Randy’s favor). Randy refuses, and goes through the motions of his regular moves, all to entertain the fans. Clutching his chest, he goes to the top rope to deliver his patented “Ram Jam”, which is a diving head butt. With tears streaming down his face, he salutes the crowd as he makes his leap, and the camera fades to black.
Mickey Rourke has once again shown that he has the talent to portray damaged human beings quite well. The supporting cast also does a bang up job, showing us the harsher side of life.
Going back to my earlier point, while this is a wrestling themed movie, the message that it conveys can be related to virtually any walk of life. It talks about a man who put his career before his family, and stayed in that career long after he should have. He no longer has any of the advantages of youth, and shouldn’t be doing the things that he does – not at that point in his life.
Like most of us, he is looking for love, unsure exactly how to do so. He sees a kindred spirit in Pam, but circumstances and their own scarred pasts make this coupling almost impossible. He makes many mistakes, just as most of us do. He also feels a closer to connection to strangers than he does his own family. Despite not living in a deserted wilderness, he feels like a lot of us do – alone. Alone in a multitude of other human beings. Sort of a contradiction, but something very real.
Anyway, it was a good movie, not something that children should be allowed to watch under any circumstances.
I’m sitting here typing this and watching the end of “I am Legend”, starring another great actor, Will Smith!
Anyway, in reference to that film, here’s my song of the day: