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The Wrestler (2008) Movie Review

Reviews Thoth

The Wrestler (2008) Movie Review


I thought…

(I was going to do a philosophical dissection of Life of Pi this week. Instead a co-incidental conversation on Twitter with a certain @JillDanielsss about the director of the movie Pi, which went from talk about the Oscars, to how it sucked when we found out WWE wasn’t real, chancing on her telling me I must watch The Wrestler)  

…The Wrestler? I’m thinking, back in 2008 when Mickey Rourke (dude who doesn’t mind doing shitty movies) won the Oscar for best actor, it piqued my curiosity. But, I’m thinking, could a movie name be any more self-descriptive? Okay, so it’s probably just some gritty perspective into a wrestler’s life, I thought…

(Naïve – in retrospect, I know – a rare occurrence for, I, Thoth. But for some reason, I was oblivious that the movie was directed Darren Aronofsky, dude who made ‘Requiem for a Dream… lest I would have known better)  

… So the movie isn’t about a Wrestler?

No, the movie isn’t just about wrestling. I’m thinking, this movie is also about the price of entertainment, dignity of labour and Jesus Christ.

(Couldn’t find that in the plot description? I Thoth not. Behold, as I extrapolate…)   

The movie, I’m thinking, follows the waning years of a legendary wrestler from the 80s, who is now way past his prime, but can’t keep himself out of the ring. His real name is Robin Ramzinski, better known by his ring name Randy “The Ram” Robinson.

(Now I would have guessed “the Ram” was a metaphor, If I wasn’t used to WTF wrestling names like Rikishi Fatu, Papa Shango, Yokozuna, Tatanka etc. Also, why the heck wasn’t I thinking Darren Aronofsky?)

The Price of Entertainment

I’m thinking, if you were a wrestling fan like me and if finding out that it was all scripted, was worse than discovering Santa didn’t exist – you should watch this movie. But if you’re thinking that’s what makes this movie awesome (i.e. a look into how wrestling matches are rehearsed routines with pre-decided results); I’m thinking – you’re in for so much more.

You’ll do The Rock’s – ‘People’s Eyebrow’, I’m thinking, as the movie starts with Ram’s opponent respectfully discussing exactly how they’ll do the fight, in the dressing room. You’ll knowingly grin, I’m thinking, as the fight proceeds just as planned and the crowd ignorantly cheers on. And then, Randy’s opponent kicks him down and distracts the crowd with taunts, while Randy slips a blade out of his wristband and slashes himself on the forehead.

(Trivia – Mickey Rourke – actually slashed himself with a blade in this scene – for realism… hold on to that thought)

The match ends as planned with the Ram turning it around, doing a signature move and beating his opponent. But he had to bleed before he did that … He had to give them a good-show… I’m thinking – do wrestlers start off as wrestlers and unsuspectingly get turned into self-torturing entertainers somewhere along? …  

HOLD UP! Did I say that’s how this movie begins? Correction! The movie begins with –

Randy the Ram, the guy who is willing to torture and bleed himself (as described above) for public entertainment, being handed a paltry sum of money for a fight, along with a meagre apology for how less it is. He goes home that night knowing he’s not going to be able to pay his overdue rent.

Dignity of Labor?

So at this point I’m thinking – How can people do this for a living? I mean, I’m thinking, the famous ones that are making billions have the money to justify it. However, I’m thinking, there are thousands of small-time wrestlers that are earning peanuts for putting their bodies on the line, to entertain an audience. This got me thinking about the kind of depravities and evil side-effects – our unsuspecting, ever increasing demands for entertainment – cause and effect….

(Yes, fine, I admit I can’t contain the guilt I have after watching this movie, for loving WWE when I was a kid… but I don’t watch it anymore!)  

… And, just as I started drawing comparisons of simulated wrestling with prostitution and pornography, The Wrestler on cue introduces us to Cassidy (played brilliantly by Marisa Tomei), a stripper Randy the Ram frequents and has great affection for.

(Did I mention? This movie is directed by the guy who directed Requiem for a Dream, a movie which drew a strong comparison between druggies and television addicts)

For me – I’m thinking – it’s sheer brilliance, the way The Wrestler uses Cassidy’s life as an ageing stripper to parallel Randy the Ram’s life as an ageing wrestler, wherein she tries really hard to please a crowd more unforgiving and disrespectful than Randy’s.  One heart-sinking scene, I’m thinking, is her walking around the strip-bar asking people if they want a lap dance and them telling her they’re not interested… I’m thinking, is it possible to believe in the existence of Dignity of Labor after seeing something like that?

Thoth of the Day – “If Labour gave you a living and Dignity wasn’t earning you one – what would you choose? Dignity or Labour?”

Jesus Christ

“He was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought us peace was upon him…and by his wounds were we healed” – Cassidy quotes the Passion of The Christ to Randy the Ram, as she gives him a lap-dance and Randy is showing her all the brutal wounds on his body, he’s suffered in the ring. Their dialogue ends with her ominously calling him – “Sacrificial Lamb”.

I’m thinking, this movie and this scene in particular made me wonder if this was a reflection of how we are prepared to be content with the sacrifices and side-effects of our inequities and indulgences? Wrestling – for when we need to feel wild aggression? Porn – for when we feel wild sexual desires? Reality shows when we want to make another’s reality our show? Soldiers and Martyrs for our retribution? All this so we can conveniently indulge in our fantasies at the cost of such sacrificial lambs of society, who get paid in depreciable fame, which we loan on interest, while getting to live our “normal” lives along with deniability.

(Okay – Thoth, chill out, you’re overloading it with the philosophy)

A wrestler’s life isn’t nearly as dangerous as the gladiators of old, but I’m thinking they suffer the same phenomenon – ‘False Sense of Respect’. The crowd cheers, respect abounds, but monogamous exaltation weds who? The man or the mask? The person or the persona? The entertainer or the wrestler?

In my last review, Aligarh, I was left pondering on how we, as ignorant kids, used to visit the zoo and throw pebbles at the animals in their cages, so they’d do something fun. I’m thinking – me watching The Wrestler – is strangely coincidental, because it portrayed how this childish pursuit for entertainment in the wrong way, can be found as fully grown self-aware sins of our societies.

(If you’re still waiting for me to tell you why you should watch this movie, despite the philosophical extrapolations above… you should probably skip this one Bub…)