It’s clear that Randy “the ram” Robinson ruined his own life. It seems that once he did make a very good living as a pro wrestler, he had a good chance to be a good father to his daughter and maybe retire with dignity. Randy did not though. We feel sorry for him, aging and still going into the ring to “fight” and scrape a living. He has a heart attack and decides to seek his daughter and make amends. What are the chances of that working out? Aronofsy’s stroke of genius is casting Rourke in this role. He is perfect. His face looks like it has been chewed by a grizzly and put back together. His body shows the crazy effects of steroid use and tough fights in the ring for years. The “fights” are staged, sure, but that does not make them any less grueling and gruesome. Without hitting us on the head with it, Aronofsky manages to show us the interesting dynamic between these wrestlers, their planning for the matches and the tough job of acting it out on stage. We also get to see these aging broken men still going on tours to sign autographs at rec halls and such. For some reason that was very depressing.
Aronofsky films Rourke from the back a lot. That makes him seem like he is always walking into a wrestling match, even if he is just going to his other job at the deli counter or to the strip joint to meet his favorite dancer, Cassidy. The relationship with Cassidy, played perfectly by Marissa Tomei, is not a conventional one. It’s complex and gives Cassidy a character of her own who maybe made some bad choices along the line, but she is not cheap, dumb and someone to just play a “love interest”. She is lonely but not deperate yet. She cares about Randy, but is not willing to share whatever he is going through just yet. The Wrestler is one of those sad humane films that tells the story of real people with real problems and pains and it works on all levels.