Monday, August 3, 2009
Friends had been raving to me about this new indie film, The Wrestler, which sounded quite interesting to me. The movie was also referenced in an interesting article that was published in Rolling Stone a few months ago on Hulk Hogan, and Hogan noted how accurate and realistic the movie was. So, I was quite curious to see the real world behind the curtain of professional wrestling.
Basically, the film is about an old wrestler who has achieved small-time fame, The Ram, who is still trying to wrestle despite his aging. He can barely afford his trailer, he can barely afford the drugs he needs to ease his aches and pains, he has lost contact with all of his family, and the only family and sanity he has left rests in his wrestling.
Even though he hurts himself every weekend, somehow he seems to bounce back with drugs and rest. During the week, he works at a grocery store to earn extra money to keep up his wrestling habit. He also needs to keep his hair frosted, going to the hairdresser every so often, and he needs to buy new costumes, especially when his old ones become ripped and tattered from previous wrestles.
However, The Ram's conflict begins when he collapses in the dressing room due to a heart attack. He is told that he cannot wrestle again because it would be too much pressure and physical strain on his heart. The Ram then works full time at the grocery store, working with the public at the meat counter, and mourns the loss of his career. He tries to get back in contact with his daughter, played by Evan Rachel Wood, but just as he mends their relationship, he breaks another promise to her which drifts them apart once again.
The Ram tries to bud a relationship with a stripper at a local strip club he attends, but the stripper, played by Marissa Tomei, does not think that The Ram sees her as a woman but as a stripper. In the end, The Ram decides that he cannot live his life as someone else. He is a wrestler, that is where he feels loved and at home, so he will wrestle despite the doctor's orders. The stripper then understands Ram's love for her, so she drives to the show to stop him from wrestling. Just as she gives her love for him, the fans start to cheer his name, and Ram runs into the ring.
The ending is quite ambiguous, although it might be pretty clear what the writer intended for the ending. The Ram gives a dramatic speech at the beginning of the match, almost like his final words. During the final match, The Ram keeps holding his heart and falling short of his quick moves. His opponent keeps asking him if he is okay, and it takes him longer and longer to make a move. The opponent even lies down and asks him to pin him just so the Ram can get off the stage and relieve the physical stress. Even though Ram is in pain, he climbs to the post, slowly, and prepares for his signature move, the Ram Jam. The last image we see is Ram fall on top of his opponent, and the screen goes black for a prolonged period of time. A soft acoustic guitar plays, and then after a while, the credits begin to roll.
The intended idea, I believe, is that Ram collapsed there. That was the final effort that gave out his heart. He went out in glory, in his mind, in the ring doing the move that gained him fame from his fans. I think the elapsed black screen basically alludes to the blackness that Ram faces after he slams his opponent. I don't see how else Ram could continue to wrestle anyway. He was just too weak now! How else would he survive, since he just quit his job? It just makes sense.
I found the movie interesting because it gets behind the scenes of a wrestler. The two fighters discuss beforehand the moves they're going to do and what weapons or techniques they are planning to lose. They even know who will be winning the match even before the step foot in the ring. I didn't realize how pre-planned the whole thing was. They also carry razor blades and other weapons under their tape to cut themselves and make it look real. Hogan confirmed this in his interview. It's just crazy.
I felt so bad for Ram the whole time. He was living in the past at the height of his career. He played old school Nintendo where he was a character in the game. He tried to sell action figures, pictures, and autographs in warehouses on weekends to fans. He connected with 80s music and almost longed for the 80s to come back. He was known as a wrestling god almost to the others who wrestled with him, and even though he was so old, they allowed him to keep winning since the fans connected with him so much.
The movie was pretty sad, but it was quite interesting to take an inside look at the real world of wrestling. The Wrestler was very well done and put together; Mickey Rourke was fabulous. He made the viewer feel sad and sorry for him and he depicted the life spiraling down the tubes in such an effective way. I thought the whole movie was well done and that the viewer could really connect with the film from its depiction.
I wonder if real professional wrestlers are angry about this film since it gives away some of the glory and the secrets behind their profession. Maybe parts of it are inaccurate or weren't explored, but the public won't really know one way or the other. I wonder if this life was depicted clearly. I feel bad for professional wrestlers if they want to live this life. I know it gives some of them fame and money, but I can't imagine the physical harm done on the body! It's sick!
What do you think of The Wrestler?