The Wrestler (Contains Spoilers)
February 7, 2009
Well I finally got around to seeing the movie The Wrestler and as promised I’m going to share with you my thoughts. I’m not sure if it was the amount of hype or the constant pressure to see the film but to be honest I was disappointed. I went in both wanting and expecting to like the film but for the most part I didn’t. It wasn’t that I found it to be a bad movie as much as I just didn’t find it a very enjoyable one.
The performances by Mickie Rourke and Marisa Tomei were both fantastic, and I thought both characters were really strong and very believable. I liked Pam/Cassidy a lot, but Randy “The Ram” I didn’t care for much at all, which is why I was let down by the film.
I often look at films the same way I look at wrestling matches (from a psychology stand point) and I think with this film it is even more appropriate. For me a good match or film needs to have a strong baby face/hero. A baby face needs to be a likable character. If we don’t like the main character why would we care what happens to him?
When you break it down into basic match psychology you have to Shine your Baby Face in the beginning of a match. You have to get the crowd to like that Baby Face. You have to make sure they like the guy before you get Heat on him. Once we like the Baby Face we can root for him to survive and over come, and hopefully win in the end. At some point the Face makes his comeback, fans generally cheer, and then you wrap the match up with a happy or sad ending.
The same can be said for virtually every film, book, play, you name it. That is the basic story telling formula. The Wrestler failed greatly in these respects. For starters there was almost no shine. The scrapbook like open, which recapped Randy’s glory days, was not enough Shine to make me like the character. We didn’t get to see any of his successes and the first time we get to see our Baby Face he’s getting stiffed on his pay at a low rent Indy show.
The whole film just felt like Heat to me, and getting that much Heat on a guy, I haven’t really found a reason to like yet, made this an interesting but not overly enjoyable film. I had no sympathy for “The Ram” and while I would have liked for him to have a happy ending at the end of the film, I wasn’t sympathetic when he didn’t.
I have a very unsympathetic view when it comes to people in this business that fall on hard times, especially those like Randy “The Ram” whose hard times come as a result of their own actions. Randy had a big career, assumingly made big money, but is now old, broken down, using drugs, poor, and alone. I’m not sure why we are supposed to feel bad for him. There was never a reason given for why he was broke now, so I assume like many of his real life counterparts he simply pissed it away and never saved for the future.
There are but three hope spots in the film and Randy pisses all three of them away. He gets a second chance with his daughter and screws that up because he would rather do blow and bang a rat his daughter’s age. He finds a job, which may not have been a great one, but he was actually enjoying it and good at it, and he screws that up because someone recognized him and he couldn’t swallow his superstar pride and deal with it. Then he blows the last chance he has at not being alone, when he picks wrestling a match over a life with Pam. I’m sorry but this guy is a loser, and the film ends with a very unhappy, if perhaps realistic finish.
I had one person even suggest to me that the ending was supposed to be a happy one, because in the end he went out to do what he loved most. The real world had not been good to Randy “The Ram” so he was going back to the only World he knew or was good at. I just can’t buy that, which may be because I have too much of a person perspective on this and I’ve never been one to put wrestling ahead of my real life.
Regardless of my perspective, if that was the intent I think the film makers came up short because at no point did they convince me that Randy loved wrestling. At no point during the film did Randy appear to be enjoying himself while wrestling. It seemed more like it was just the only thing he knew how to make money at. He may have loved being a big star once upon a time but I never believed he loved wrestling. He had more fun that one day at the deli counter than he did at any of the Indy events we saw him at.
I think his daughter summed it up best, he was a fuck up, and the story of a fuck up that commits suicide in the end might be an interesting one, but it’s not a very enjoyable one. I know there is a bit of debate over the end of the film, but as far as I’m concerned Randy dies at the end. When he looks up at the curtain and realizes that he screwed up his last chance at a real life and happiness (Pam) he jumps off that top rope to his death. There is no other possible ending, its Thelma and Louise; you don’t have to see them die to know that’s what happened.
I guess in the end I’d give it a thumbs in the middle. It was an interesting story, superbly acted, but in the end it was a story of a wrestler who couldn’t let go of the business and ended up committing suicide. I get enough of those stories in real life reading the Observer, I have no need or desire to see more of them.