We all want to live a life that is perfect.  We will fight tooth and nail in order to live
a life that makes us happy.  After all,
nothing is worse than living with regret. 
But what happens when your dream, your very livelihood, is
unceremoniously taken away?  What’s left
for you to do?

Such is the dilemma that Randy “The Ram” Robinson must face
in Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler. 
After living the dream as one of the best wrestlers in the industry
throughout the 1980s, Ram is forced to change with the (more critical) times
and wrestle in elementary and high school gymnasiums just to make ends
meet.  He lives alone, desperately holding
on to what little dignity and pride he has left, while trying to regain the
glory days that he knows will never come.

After a particularly brutal hardcore match, Ram suffers a
heart attack backstage and is forced to retire from the only thing he
knows.  Realizing his days may very well
be numbered, Ram tries to make amends with those he’s hurt over the years, all
the while trying to live a normal life. 
But he just can’t ignore the call of the squared circle, as an
anniversary match beckons him back to his old lifestyle. 

After the critical failure that was The Fountain (which is
not as bad as it’s made out to be), cinematic wunderkind Aronofsky tackles a
story that many originally deemed a step back for a man of his considerable
talent and skill.  While I was caught off
guard by Aronofsky’s choice (simply due to the subject matter), the project
gained by interest when Mikey Rourke was cast as the lead.

If ever there was a case of perfect casting, this is
it.  Once referred to as the next Brando
early in his career, Rourke would later fall off the radar after a series of
bad career choices and a supremely negative attitude toward his art.  Over the past fifteen years, Rourke made
appearances from time to time, but there wasn’t a film that truly captured his
incredible talents.  It wasn’t until Sin
in 2005 that Rourke made his much welcomed return to the big screen.

In a performance of unparalleled restrain and emotional, raw
power, Rourke simply is Ram.  I will not say more about Rourke’s
performance other than, come Oscar time, he may very well be making a trip to
the podium.  Besides, more than anything,
Hollywood loves a comeback story.

After the film’s successful bow in Venice and Toronto,
Rourke’s performance has been praised by almost everyone.  However, his costars prove to be just as
strong.  As Cassidy, a stripper who is
essentially Ram’s only true friend, Marisa Tomei is stellar and proves her
Oscar win back in the 1990s wasn’t a fluke by any means.  It took me a while to grow to like her
character, but by the end of the film the way in which her life is juxtaposed
with Ram’s is heartbreaking, yet endearing. 
In my eyes, she was a pleasant surprise.

As Ram’s estranged daughter Stephanie, Evan Rachel Wood
makes the best of her short screen time. 
While her character may appear to be one note at first, it quickly
becomes apparent that she experienced such emotional pain and anguish at the hands
of her father (which is never really explained, making for a nice, mysterious
touch) to the point in which she can’t exude regular human emotions.  Wood’s performance is a sad portrayal of a broken
human being,  who experiences flashes of
love and humor. 

One criticism that I’ve read on many occasions is the fact
that, aside from Ram, not many characters actually develop throughout the film.  It puzzles me when I read comments like that
because it is obvious from the opening scenes that Aronofsky took a realistic
approach to making the film.  What’s
more, he focuses primarily on emotional reality and how it impacts loved
ones.  In life, we are not always
forgiven for hurting others, we don’t always learn from our mistakes, nor do we
realize that we’re in the wrong until it’s too late.  The Wrestler takes these little moments in
life and captures them in such a way that will haunt you for days.

To discuss anything more about The Wrestler would be
unfair to those who have yet to experience it. 
However, I will say that Aronofsky has crafted a beautiful little film;
one that triggers its own unique emotional response within each viewer.  Whether you like the film or not, you’d be hard-pressed
to ignore the emotional power it wields.

9 out of 10