Caught a sneak preview of Darren Aronofsky’s, “The Wrestler,” starring Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood, at the Arclight Theater in Hollywood last night. A question & answer session followed the screening. The film is shot in a documentary style and features Randy “The Ram” Robinson (Mickey Rourke), a professional wrestler who reached the pinnacle of his career in the late ’80s. Now, twenty years later, still wrestling and pushing the limits of his physical tolerance, he is forced into retirement after a near-fatal heart attack.
What I found most fascinating, as I could relate to it, was Randy’s struggle with his sense of purpose and identity outside the context of the ring. Randy starts working weekend shifts at a deli-counter. He begins to evaluate his life while considering the prospect of a rematch with his longtime nemesis, a comeback that could very well kill him. Simultaneously, Randy makes an effort to reconnect with his teenage daughter Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood) and to settle down with a local stripper Cassidy (Marisa Tomei). As he attempts to walk the humble path, the ring still calls to him and his attempts to sustain any real or meaningful relationships or hold a 9-5 job fail (which might explain why he stayed in the ring for 20+ years?).
According to Aronofsky, “You meet wrestler after wrestler who sold out Madison Square Garden ten years ago, basically running on fumes today. They have no union, no pension and no insurance.”
Ultimately, Randy chooses the ring despite the risks involved, specifically death. He gives a brief closing speech before his big match suggesting to the crowd (and himself) that the ring and his adoring fans are the source of his happiness. However, having witnessed his emotional journey, it is clear that as a result of his choices, he is alone and being alone is a painful reality. Randy is reduced to his abilities inside the ring. While he tries to convince the roaring crowd of his satisfied state of well being, we feel the emptiness.