Publisher's note: As redundant as a pacing lost soul, I am loathe to admit, Wyatt is probably our most read writer. Over a month ago, March 12, 2012, I was perusing our sister publication, Better Angels Now, and I noticed that so many of Wyatt's reviews, of the many fine films that occupy the public's interest, have not been availed to our readers through our Beaufort County Now publication.
Consequently, over the next many weeks, possibly months, we will endeavor to remedy this mild injustice by publishing these reviews, in our current improved format, for your edification. Here below is our seventeenth in a series of these older articles of interest by our good friend, Wyatt Sanderman Day.
Nearly the "Champ," but without the Kid
Director Darren Aronofsky's near remake of "The Champ" is an important film in the measure that it examines the life of the lost and the forgotten, after enjoying a small piece of the "American dream." Randy "The Ram" Robinson, portrayed with the depth of insight of a profound empathy by Mickey Rourke, has tasted professional wrestling fame and now knows the depth of despair as a "washed up, has been," with a distinct inability to understand and cope with his unique obstacles in the vast array of our collective human existence. And understanding Randy's obstacles will take great sympathy of empathy from the audience to fathom the dead end existence and probable future that confronted him every single day.
"The Wrestler's" audience is asked to participate in Randy's dead end journey, and I warn you, many of you will not want to take that ride. That ride will take you down a dull, desperate and despairing path that will depress some of you and inspire others. In this story there is no middle ground, just like there are no comfortable answers for Randy "The Ram." He is going down for the count and there is no proverbial cavalry rushing over the ridge to save the day.
That is the conundrum of this compelling tale: which came first, the ill considered life choices or professional wrestling? Was it the fact that Randy was never that intelligent in making choices, or did the constant grind of working the ring just beat the snot out of him to the point of punch drunkenness? Regardless, he lives in a word of lockouts of living space, and lockouts of meaningful love from anyone, save his growing group of broken down wrestler buddies, with whom he competes, that could possibly suffer from the same predicament as Randy.
This burly band of miscreants are reminiscent of Gladiators, with whom there is no freedom from the mistakes they have made, that have given their lives little purpose other than what they take from the wrestler's ring. In watching this group that not only accepts Randy "The Ram," but treats him as a celebrity, one wonders just how socially damaged the collective lot of them are. The lifestyle that many professional wrestlers understand is one of: pain and power, painkillers and strength enhancing anabolic steroids, amphetamines to keep up their pace and barbiturates to take them down so their beaten bodies can rest. Their occupation is subject to their performance and for many that depends on their access to medication. The question is: how long can their bodies keep that up?
What is painfully clear is that "The Ram's" best days are behind him. It has been over 20 years since his "time in the sun" as the champion of professional wrestling. From that point, and with no explanation in the film, it has been a slide downward into the wrestlers' world of has-beens, and those that never will be. Randy, after plenty of pain and blood, is allowed to win the matches, where he performs in high school gyms and small civic centers. He is their champion, and their champion is losing the only quality he has left in his beaten up life and his beaten down body - his heart.
Randy's social life revolves around a seedy strip club, where his only friend, outside of wrestling, is Cassidy (her stripper name), portrayed mostly in the nude by Marisa Tomei. His estranged daughter is a Lesbian and hates him for a variety of reasons, not least of which was leaving the family because his world could not mesh with fatherhood and family. Upon his attempt at reconciliation, he tearfully imparts to his daughter, Stephanie played by Evan Rachel Wood: "Now, I'm an old broken down piece of meat."
Two nights later when Randy is more than two hours late for a dinner date with his daughter, Stephanie imparts to dad, "There is no more fixing this. It's broke, permanently. And I'm Okay with that. It's better. I don't ever want to see you again." Now turning to her father, she continues "Look at me. I don't want to see you. I don't want to hear you. I'm done! Do you understand? Done." She rises and moves to the door, opens it and declares, "Get out."
Randy for all his faults has the capacity to love others. He is just not very good at being loved by others.
And to this end and to the end of all that Randy "The Ram" Robinson is and will become, "The Wrestler" is a tough film to watch. There is no soundtrack to speak of, except a Bruce Springsteen ditty as the credits roll. The dialogue is both good, and at times painful in its service to the raw diction of the lower class of our American citizenry. It is however; a story that we have all lived with, as professional wrestling has been, and is a staple on television, and in large and much smaller arenas across the American landscape. If one has ever wondered what has become of these battered human beings, this is an honest story of the pain and suffering, and eventual loss of ego of those who never quite attain a piece of the American dream.
Warning: This is as far from a "Chick Flick" as you can possibly get. If the wife or girl friend just doesn't get it ... well, that's probably a good thing. In most cases, that's a good sign that she is possibly normal. Nothing about Randy or his world was.
Rated R. 109 minutes of runtime. Released on DVD April 21, 2009.
This post appears courtesy of our sister site, Beaufort County NOW, with their expressed permission.