Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Wrestler, finally saw it and worth the drive...

Had nothing to do this weekend so took a drive down to the Bean Friday night, crashed with an old acquaintance slept late and then made it into Cambridge to catch The Wrestler for a mid-afternoon show. Shit on me all you want, I don't care what you think. Though I know what you're thinking and you're right...there's no way in hell I would have done this in the summertime when gas prices were $4+ a gallon. But I could handle a 20spot round trip to get me out of Maine for a bit and see some folks I hadn't seen enough of in awhile. I hung around in Cambridge afterward and had dinner and wasn't in much of a hurry to get back (Sorry, Nick) so I didn't end up heading for home until a tad after 11pm. The roads were clear and this afforded me plenty of time to reflect on the hour and fifty minutes of film I viewed earlier in the afternoon. And reflect I did. I only saw four sets of taillights once I hit the Maine border (5 if you count the set I saw on 202 coming back through Gray), so it was a quiet and relaxing trip back. but I'm left still mulling over some bits and pieces. I'd love to see it again but this probably won't happen until it opens up in Portland on the 23rd. If you read no further at least read this: If you can, go see this movie.

Let me preface my discussion by informing you I was (and still am to some degree) a big professional wrestling fan though my middle school years (I was also real big into it early, early on in my life when Hulk was still a young face [if you don't know what this means you're useless] and "Ravishing" Rick Roode was a king in WCW but I do not consider those my formative years...). I don't know what brought it on, just everyone I was close to was into it. We watched Raw every week, went to the shows when they came to Portland, and even staged our own matches in a friend's basement after school for a solid 9 months. There were 15 of us and not that backyard horseshit but true, classic professional wrestling modeled after characters in the then-WWF which we taped and laughed at afterward. I'm sure we would all be ridiculed to no end if those tapes ever were to resurface (I have a copy, don't worry). Mick Foley and "The Road Dogg" Jesse James were my heros. The latter may have actually subconsiously motivated me to get braids my sophomore year in high school, but I haven't picked a shrink yet to worry about digging up more dirt on that subject.

Also, for any one who was pro wrestling is fake, I say fuck you. Sorry for swearing, I know it's not very becoming. If you say it's fake, I implore you to just stand on a hard floor and fall straight onto your back 10 times in a row. Just 10. And then tell me how you feel. Then multiply that by 3-10, adding in occaisional falls from 10+ feet onto concrete, awkward landnings, hardcore gimmicks and the like. Then do this 300 days a year. For 10-20 years if you want to get real technical. You'll hurt, I'm confident in that. Yes, outcomes are pre-determined and rabbit punches are thrown from time to time. But bumps will always be real, there's no faking those. You can also just read Mick Foley's first book, Have a Nice Day. He's (actually) a pretty solid writer and it's an quick read, but it sheds a lot of light on this indie and regional wrestling scene and also what he puts his body through for the love of the ring. The bumps this guy took are mindblowing and I'm not about to go into them now.

Also, as with Chinese Democracy I haven't read anything on it directly other than the start of articles where people say to go see it and Mick Foley (read: god) saying the wrestling was well done, so I guess this is as close to original thought as I can claim recently. Now, to begin (and I'll try not to be a bitch and spoil too much because I know a lot of people [read: one person] who read me semi-regularly plan to see this), Mickey Rourke absolutely brought it. In the ring, out of the ring, it didn't matter. He was "The Ram." Nothing about his performance seemed fake to me. Granted he's a specimen physically so a few months in the gym and a spray tan and he's back at it, but his hair was real. He boxed in his early 30's so his f-ed up face is real. Just everything he did and said seemed 100% genuine to me. "The Ram" did one thing well, and that was wrestle. He's not a high flying wrestler but straight out of the '80s when a lot of the moves were punches, kicks, clotheslines and suplexes that quite a few people can manage with a little training in taking bumps. So I didn't feel like I was watching a stunt man, ever. One of the matches gets a bit intense, but even in that case 99% of the moves I felt like I could handle (not today, but if I was actually semi-fit and in shape, say, 12 months from now or 12 months ago), with about the same amount of blood that he spilled (Some of you may want to throw a red challenge flag on this, but let me say a: I've already been shot with staple and bb guns for no good reason and b: you can't teach crazy. If I'm crying I'm lying, and I ain't shed a tear). That's how authentic I felt it to be. I'm sure there was fake blood and a body double here and there but I don't want to believe it. In a certain grimey, "holy shit" sort of way, it was perfect.

His life is the mat, and I found that to be a blessing and a curse (obviously...). But what I still can't decide is if I feel sorry for him or idolize him. I can't tell if I should feel sorry for him because he ruins every aspect of his life: family, his body, his job, because he can't separate himself from wrestling. But at the same time I almost want to idolize him because he found his true calling, his passion (Don't read Christ's passion into this. You can, it's there and the film brings it up rather explicitly but I'm not going to bother because I just don't feel like going down that road right now. Watch Rocky. Stallone, in my opinion, creates a better passion play in Rocky. But forget that, wow, I really can't stay focused right now...) and he lived for his time in the ring. He comes to work and sees his family of other wrestlers and the fans, who all idolize him. The wrestlers are honored to work with him, fans are honored to see him (though after 30 years in the business this can be hard to handle at times, I'm sure)'s really fairly remarkable and I want to think this is what they mean when people say follow your bliss...but then I say to myself: this bliss has crippled him emotionally and physically...back and forth, back and forth, you get the idea...

I struggled with some of the under-development of the two supporting characters in the film, his daughter and the stripper he falls in love with, but as I look back I almost feel like that was intentional. If "The Ram" could handle meaningful relationships with either of them then the audience would have had a chance to learn more about them. But Randy cannot, and thus we are not granted the opportunity. Before I go further I just have to say that speaking of bringing it, Marisa Tomei is lights out as a stripper. She's just phenomenal and is topless in about 65% of her scenes. Worth the price of admission for that alone, but what I found equally impressive is Rourke consistently stole the spotlight from her in many of the scenes in which they appeared together and she was without a top (or with see-through top). Seriously, I don't care if he wins but this is worthy of an Oscar nomination (whatever that means...How about this, "Rourke's performance was good enough for me to not wait a year to buy the DVD when it drops to below 10 bucks. I'll buy it the first week it comes out when it's on sale for $14.99. WOW!!). I'm all for down and out.

My favorite scene was a little corny because it's with his daughter and they share a cliche (in my opinion) moment together after many years separated while walking along a Jersey Shore pier. There's an old casino in the middle of demolition and they break into the ballroom and dance and smile and finish with a hug. But, what I found intriguing was this is exactly where "The Ram" would be most comfortable. This ballroom is just like every other gym and convention center and arena he's been the star of for the last 25 years of his life. I don't know if it's subtle or not, if it's meant that way, or if other people think it's supposed to be meant that way, but that's where I shed a tear. No joke, and screw you for judging me. (Rocky actually made me notice this because if you watch the beginning of Rocky closely his first fight during the opening credits is in a ring set up in a converted church. Tangent, I know, but another reason why Rocky has more subtle Christ cues than The Wrestler. But forget I said anything, read on I'm just rambling dribble now...)

I'll leave you with this last, just because it amuses me. I just can't help but notice how close I think Mickey Rourke looks to one of my old Monty Sopp, aka Bad Ass Billy Gunn, who teamed with the Road Dogg to form the New Age Outlaws. They were a fun bunch. I guess that could have been when "The sketchy guy and the guy no one likes" first began, but that's a story for another day. Striking, no? cheers (Sorry for just stopping I ran out of steam it's now new year's resolutions will come, eventually).

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