Hollywood has shown us many hospitals and courtrooms, police stations and battlefields, posh mansions and expensive nightclubs.
But I like it when a movie introduces us to an entirely new world that we haven’t seen before. I like a movie that brings me into the life of a guy who I will never meet in real life and forces me to walk a mile in his shabby shoes.
Mickey Rourke stars as Randy Robinson: a washed up wrestler living alone in a rented trailer somewhere in North Jersey.
Back in the 1980s, Randy “The Ram” was one of the biggest stars in professional wrestling. Now he is just struggling to stay alive. After a heart attack, Randy’s doctor orders him to give up strenuous exercise. But that’s like ordering Nickelback to stop playing awful rock ballads – it’s just not going to happen.
As I’m sure you’ve already heard, Mickey Rourke’s Oscar-nominated performance is phenomenal. I wonder if he can retroactively write off all of the drugs he took in the 80s and 90s and claim that he was intentionally destroying himself to play this role.
The greatness of “The Wrestler” is more than perfect casting, however. The genius of the film is the way that the story unfolds so naturally and believably.
We don’t just see the big events in Randy’s life. We get a genuine feel for the sadness and predictability of his existence.
We watch as Randy works his day job at the grocery store, serving potato salad to finicky old ladies.
We watch him hit the strip club as soon as he gets some spare cash, because the only way a woman is going to listen his old wrestling stories for five minutes is if he pays her $20.
And of course we see him in the ring on Saturday night, working 200 seat VFW Halls instead of 20,000 capacity arenas like he used to.
By the end I realized that “The Wrestler” is the opposite of what I thought. At first it seemed like Randy was absolutely nuts to put his aching body through all of that torture to chase a dream that will never come true again.
But the truth is that Randy would be crazy to listen to his doctor’s advice, take his health into consideration, and quit doing what he loves. His fellow wrestlers and wrestling fans are his people – his real family.
The film convincingly argues that a man has to follow his passion, even when it is destructive and seems absolutely foolish to the rest of the world.
Of course Randy’s life would have been healthier and probably better if he had been a great stamp collector instead of a professional wrestler. But to give up wrestling now and force himself to age gracefully would be a far more depressing fate than flaming out and dying in the ring.
If you’re a fan of character-driven dramas like me, “The Wrestler” is an absolute must-see.