“The Wrestler” (2008) is a stunningly sincere and enthralling human drama about a professional wrestler named Randy “The Ram” Robinson (Mickey Rourke) at the tail end of his career, grinding out performances in high school gyms and far flung venues throughout New Jersey in order to eek out a meager existence.
Well past his glory days as a celebrated champion of the ring, the 50-something Robinson struggles through amateur matches while trolling away at a local supermarket on weekends in order to cover his bills. His spare time is spent largely at a local strip club where he has developed a kindly friendship with an aging dancer named Cassidy (Marisa Tomei), who urges him to reconnect with his estranged daughter Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood). His efforts to engender favorability with Stephanie are hit-or-miss though, particularly after long-term steroid abuse causes him to suffer a debilitating heart attack. Only partially recuperated, Randy is given the opportunity to engage in a 20th-anniversary rematch with his long-time rival “The Ayatollah”—a fight that threatens his very livelihood yet offers an irresistible chance at newfound prestige and pride.
Directed by prestigious indie filmmaker Darren Aronofsky, “The Wrestler” is a brilliantly assured creation, delivering a heart-wrenching depiction of despair and yearning for past glory. Rourke brings “The Ram” to remarkable cinematic life in an utterly symbiotic manner—neither he nor the film could seemingly ever exist without one another. A remarkable comeback for one of Hollywood's more unique stars of yesteryear, it’s a rousing and wonderfully naturalistic formulation, replete with just the right combination of subtly, humor and resounding sincerity.
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