I just watched “The Wrestler,” for the first time.
Not even half-way through, I was bawling.
This is the best movie I have ever seen. No wonder both Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei earned Oscar nominations.
The main character of Randy “The Ram” split my heart with his vulnerability. I ached for him– and the broken life he tried so relentlessly to rebuild.
This movie really SHOWS what true Christianity is about.
This man lives a humble life so that he can do what he loves: professional wrestling.
Randy is addicted to steroids and who knows what else. He drinks. But he is the kindest man most people could hope to meet. He plays with the kids in his trailer park. He makes an effort to talk to all his fans, take pictures with them, sign things. He is a humble man, because he has lost so much in his personal life. He has an estranged daughter. He tries to reconcile with her– and briefly, he does. But when he stands her up, she snaps her heart shut and tells him off once and for all.
There’s a stripper, Cassidy (Tomei), with whom (?) he tries to begin a relationship. He wants to settle down with her. But she is so hardened by her profession that she is terrified of true intimacy. She sees herself as damaged goods– just a stripper, who no man could ever commit to or truly accept.
They obviously share a kinship that transcends their stripper/customer prescribed dynamic. She trusts him, and as he describes his wrestling scars to her, she quotes “The Passion of the Christ,” and compares him to Jesus. He has so many wounds, but he just keeps wrestling and moving through his life. She lovingly refers to him as “The Sacrifical Ram.”
He offers again and again to “make her an honest woman.” He is a middle-aged “fuck-up,” as his daughter brands him with a lifetime full of hate. As much as Cassidy rejects him, he never stops trying to win her over. He comes back again and again, with hope and full humility.
When she finally is ready to commit to him, she walks out of her job stripping and leaves to see his match. She finds him backstage and tries to stop him from going on, afraid for his heart.
But she is too late. He had attempted to retire. He had quit wrestling and taken a job at a deli to pay the bills and rest, as per his doctor’s orders after he suffers a heart attack. He was even enjoying it– joking with the customers. He performed for them the way he performed back in the ring. But not all were delighted. It wasn’t close to the same.
And despite her offer to finally give him what he wants– commitment– he then reject CASSIDY and chooses his true family: his fans and the wrestling community. He has deep friendships with the other wrestlers, who revere him because he always brings it and makes them better wrestlers with his fearless performances. He never holds back.
Even a heart attack doesn’t stop him. And while he fails to reconcile with his daughter, he finally accepts himself. He realizes that his true love is the sport of wrestling, and the fans who have adored him for over 20 years. If he’s going to die, he wants to die in the ring– and and that he does. Cassidy doesn’t stay for his performance once he turns her down and chooses the crowd instead.
Which is sad for Cassidy, because she misses seeing him do what he truly loves. If she truly loved him, she would have stayed– and cheered for him the entire time. She left after she saw him getting hurt. She was ultimately more afraid for her own heart than his.
In the end, it’s his daughter and Stephanie who lost. They gave up the opportunity to have a relationship with a man who truly cherished them both– just because of who he used to be or who he appeared to be. His daughter could only see him as the man who deserted her as a child; Cassidy could only see him as a customer.
I’m glad that Ram chose himself and chose to wrestle one more time– that was truly his destiny. He dies in the ring, to the roar of the fans, in a 20-year anniversary rematch. He dies doing what he loves.
The man who DEFINED “all heart,” sacrificed his body and his heart to the sport of wrestling. But with every beat, he loved it.
And when you see that, you don’t think of him as a drug addict, or a dead-beat father, or a fuck-up.
You see him as a hero, who spent his life giving to others.