Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Mickey Rourke) was a champion professional wrestler in the 1980's. 20 years later, he is living in a trailer park and still dragging his aging and broken body to school gyms and community centres in suburban New Jersey to participate in pathetic weekend wrestling matches in front of small audiences.
Randy's only "friend" is Pam (Marisa Tomei), a local stripper who goes by the professional name Cassidy, although she may only care about him enough to keep him as a paying customer. After a heart-attack, Robinson tries to quit wrestling for good; re-establish a relationship with his estranged daughter (Evan Rachel Wood); and elevate his friendship with Pam to something more serious. But the wrestling ring is the only place where he can even remotely imagine himself succeeding.
The Wrestler is a character study centering on past glories and vacant futures. Mickey Rourke delivers one of the performances of his career as a broken man quickly realizing that he has very little, and that what he does have he is losing. Rourke brings The Ram to life with an appropriately over-the-top physical look of a beefed up but aching body and artificially blonde long hair. None of it can mask the imminent disintegration of both his physical prowess and his soul, and his desperation to make late amends as the only life he knows draws to a sudden end.
In a strong supporting role Tomei as Pam is a stripper past her prime looking to move on from selling her body for a living, much like the wrestler but perhaps with a better likelihood of success. Her dilemma between developing feelings for The Ram and maintaining the distance needed to keep him as a client crystallizes the choice she faces to leave the relative comfort of her easy but time-limited fantasy life and take on the real world before it's too late.
Director Aronofsky creates an appropriately depressed suburban environment where livings are scratched out and there are no mis-leading signs of anything ever changing for the better.
The Wrestler is unrelenting in its portrayal of hopelessness among the depressed, and a most memorable movie because of it.
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