The Wrestler

I went back and forth between Mickey Rourke and Sean Penn for Best Actor. It really was a toss-up, and after weeks of painstaking, heart-wrenching deliberation, I sided with Penn about two days before he got the golden statue, and here’s why: He smiled. Sean Penn never smiles in any roles, ever. Thus Harvey Milk was work for Sean Penn. He had to do so much research, so much preparation and so much, well, acting for the role. Mickey Rourke did not. After all, Randy “The Ram” Robinson was essentially Mickey Rourke in neon tights.

But there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. If Rourke had won, I would have been pretty elated, too. I’m all about the comeback, even though it’s been beaten to a pulpy cliche by the entertainment media, and Rourke has made one. I hope it lasts, because the man has talent. This role was the most perfect role for his comeback, too, because he had to get back into physical shape to do it, yet he didn’t have to stretch his mind beyond the struggles of his own life.

I saw this beautiful film with a friend, and with the exception of the HORRIBLY DISGUSTING BARBED WIRE/STAPLE GUN SEQUENCE (UH, GROSS. THANKS.), we literally couldn’t keep our eyes off Rourke, or Marisa Tomei, for that matter. Rourke exuded a craggy, aged, irresistible swagger in his Timberlands and, frankly, Tomei has never looked better. (Side note: Has anyone ever thought of casting her and Jamie Lynn Sigler as sisters or Gilmore Girls-aged mother and daughter? They look identical. Just an idea.)

Speaking of the Sopranos, one of my favorite parts of the movie (SPOILER ALERT) was its extremely ambiguous ending. It always pisses me off for about 10 minutes, and then I’m totally into it. Still am to this day. It just shows that stories, lives, sagas don’t really end. It’s the same principle as the Sopranos, too: For x hours/days/years, we’re allowed into a world. When x expires, so does our backstage pass, so to speak. And that’s the way it is. Perhaps it’s arbitrary, perhaps it’s more meaningful than a soliloquy atop a snowy mountain. Either way, it’s better to leave true art open to interpretation.

Back to the characters, though. I can’t say I’ve ever been to a professional wrestling match, nor a strip club. I can’t say that I’d be comfortable in those sports or that I’d blend in and be accepted there, either. I give off too much of a “prude” vibe. But I can’t help but think that these two would be easy to befriend, because they grapple with their professions every day. To convey that routine human insecurity in just two hours is a magical feat in itself. I just hope more character-based movies like this will come out in theaters. It’s about time we started thinking about people.



  1. David · February 28, 2009

    Great insights, Stef! I definitely agree that the film’s about dealing with misunderstood professions. What I love about “The Wrestler” is that it doesn’t shy away from showing these professions in their true light, and even goes a step further by humanizing them. Brutal, honest, and yes, beautiful! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Glen · March 1, 2009

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