Mickey Rourke makes an amazing return as a leading man in 2008's The Wrestler, where he plays former Professional Wrestler Randy "The Ram" Robinson in 2008, twenty years since he's been on top. His life is a mess. He works part time at a grocery store stocking shelves, trying to wrestle in the local New Jersey amateur circuits. He barely knows his daughter. The only woman who he's interested in, a stripper played by Marisa Tomei, can't reconcile the fact that he's a customer with the fact that she likes him.
All that comes to a head when he suffers a heart attack after a brutal "extreme" match, and the Doctor's tell him that wrestling again could likely kill him. With that in mind, Randy tries to find a life outside of the wrestling world.
The film is shot in a grainy format, making it feel like a recording from the 1980s. I suspect this was done because, in many ways, Randy is still living in those days when he was on the national stage, and he's just refused to move ahead, even as the world keeps moving around him. As he tries to get his life back together, he takes a full-time position at the grocery store in the deli (even though he has to work weekends), reaches out to his daughter, and starts trying to interface with Tomei's character, Cassidy, on a more personal level.
I really enjoyed this film. Randy "The Ram" Robinson is a person who has ruined his own life in single-minded pursuit of his dream, and he's never been able to deal with his life falling apart. At the time the film begins, we meet Randy as he's been self-destructing for nearly twenty years, and it's really touching to watch as he tries to actually live in the now, instead of focusing on the past.
I think that Mickey Rourke really deserves the nomination he got for Best Actor in a Leading Role this year, and I think he probably deserves to win. The character is believable, and everything about the way the film was structured made sense, at least in the context of the character. If you've ever followed Professional Wrestling, then this film is a reasonable introduction to the lives a lot of these men face.
I will warn, however, that this film had no business being rated R. It was definitely an NC-17 film. Nearly a quarter of the file took place in a strip club, one scene features Mickey Rourke with his pants around his ankles taking a girl from behind while her breasts flop around outside her shirt. But I guess if you don't see genitals, it isn't pornography (or something). I suppose I just think about what an R-rated movie looked like even ten years ago compared to today, and it's ridiculous what slides. Same thing for the shift of PG-13 over the years.
But that is beside the point really. This movie is fantastic. It's honest. It's brutal, but in a kind of beautiful way. I've never been as interested in Professional Wrestling as many of the people around me, but even with my fairly trivial background, I was really impressed, and greatly enjoyed watching this movie.