sat 29/02/2020

theartsdesk Olympics: The Wrestler | reviews, news & interviews

theartsdesk Olympics: The Wrestler

theartsdesk Olympics: The Wrestler

What happens to the athlete whose sporting glory days are over?

Dignity in spandex: Mickey Rourke as The Wrestler

What of the star sportsman whose glory days are behind him? It seems an absurd question to pose, with the sun barely set on the theatrics of Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony, but for Randy “The Ram” Robinson it’s everyday existentialism.

Of course it's a bit of a stretch for our series of Olympic-themed posts to equate wrestling in the form practised during the competition with the slightly seedy world inhabited by Mickey Rourke’s Ram and his contemporaries - roles which, in many cases, were filled by real-life characters from the US professional wrestling circuit. It’s unlikely, for example, that many of the athletes involved over the next couple of weeks meet up in the dressing room beforehand to choreograph moves - all the better to ensure that dodgy knees and backs are not overworked - or tape razor blades under their wristbands to tease out the blood needed in the ring that the crowd is baying for.

The film’s ambiguous ending made me gasp when I first saw it over three years ago and it retains its power today

Entertainment disguised as sport it may be, but there is no gloss on Randy’s dedication to his art. The film depicts his failure in every other aspect of his life: his relationship with his daughter; a budding romance with a stripper; a part-time job behind the deli counter of a small supermarket as a means of making ends meet. For Randy the acceptance in the roar of the crowd is something that, even once his health begins to fail him, he cannot bring himself to turn his back on. The film’s ambiguous ending - a rarity in Hollywood depictions of sporting underdogs and triumph over adversity - made me gasp when I first saw it over three years ago and it retains its power today.

The Wrestler earned well-deserved critical acclaim for director Darren Aronofsky and marked the start of a professional rehabilitation for its star. Rourke brings a quiet dignity to his role even while dressed in nothing but a pair of spandex leggings while another half-naked man attacks him with a staple gun. As befits the setting, the staged violence borders on the ridiculous at times but it helps make the film’s quiet moments - the post-performance pause before vomiting in an otherwise silent locker room, a contemplative moment in a near-empty hall punting 20-year-old memorabilia alongside other battered veterans of the ring - all the more powerful.

Watch the trailer for The Wrestler

Entertainment disguised as sport it may be, but there is no gloss on Randy’s dedication to his art

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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