The Wrestler (2008)

Being an almost lifelong professional wrestling fan is tough (there were a couple years in junior and senior high I didn’t watch).  Nowadays, there’s nerd chic, and it’s soooo cool if you’re a sexy girl and wear glasses and play video games.  Nerd doesn’t mean nerd anymore.  However, outside of small windows of extreme popularity (Rock ‘N Wrestling, WWF Attitude) it is still considered somewhat embarrassing to be a wrestling fan.  It doesn’t matter how logically we defend it, we’re looked down upon by people who have no problem watching soap operas, reality TV shows and sparkling vampire movies.

However, ever since this movie was released, there seems to have been a bit of begrudging acceptance of professional wrestling as an art form in the media.  Well, not mass media, but knowledgeable pockets of it.  Even after seeing it a few times, I don’t know if it’s something I’d want to show people as like a love letter about why I still watch wrestling.  For one thing, it’s one of the most depressing movies ever in my estimation.  Sure, there’s celebratory elements to it, and there’s a lot to be said for a character that is willing to sacrifice so much for the thing he does, but it is bleak and sad.  It somewhat confirms what Beyond the Mat showed us way back in 1999: wrestlers lead fucked up lives.

Thankfully, director Darren Aronofsky treats the subject matter with respect, unlike that cinematic implosion Ready to Rumble which is ironic because R2R was created to promote wrestling, not demonize it.  The cinematography is gritty, raw, feels like a documentary at points.  The performances are astounding, and I’d say that the only reason Mickey Rourke did not win the Best Actor Oscar for his performance as Randy “The Ram” Robinson was because the Academy looked down upon him originally stating that he would be wrestling at WrestleMania XXV.  Sean Penn won that year for Milk, which was an alright performance but nowhere near as otherworldly as Rourke’s.

Even as a wrestling fan… actually, I’ll say that especially because I’m a wrestling fan, this is a hard, depressing movie to watch.  I know all to well how close to reality this movie is.

4.5 / 5

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About SkoochXC
Long-time blogger, Canadian, cine-snark-aphile, Tweeter and generally lonely hearted guy.

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