Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Wrestler

I usually am not an "Oscar" sucker. I'll go see the movies I want to see and if they wind up getting an Oscar nod, great! I think this is the first time that I've ever gone and seen a film because of its award ceremony buzz.

That isn't to say that I wouldn't have gone to see The Wrestler unless it hadn't generated such buzz. I know I've admitted to this before, but I am a professional wrestling fan. So I would have wanted to go see this anyway. But when I found out that the critics were falling in love with this performance, when talk of Oscars started floating around, I realized I had to go see this. And so I patiently waited for this film to make it to the Twin Cities so I could.

I'm glad I went and saw it. While the story's end was telegraphed from about a third of the way in, it was still heart warming and wrenching to watch as Randy "The Ram" Robinson tries to cope with a life outside the ring. He still wrestles against much younger men. He attends signings where his fellow wrestlers are in wheelchairs and wearing catheters. And he desperately seeks out contact with someone, anyone, who will accept him as Randy and not "The Ram."

I recently read an article by a critic that focused on that aspect of the film, how so many of the characters are looking for simple connections between each other, connections that would affirm their identities. It's also the story of a man who clings to something for too long, so long that it consumes him and becomes his identity.

But for me, what really stood out was how desperately professional wrestling needs to upgrade the way they treat the wrestlers. Especially the big names. Especially the biggest company of them all.

Another reviewer said that as he watched this movie, he said that the "ghosts" of deceased wrestlers like Eddie Guerrera and Chris Benoit came to watch with him. I thought he was being a bit melodramatic until I was sitting in the theater and Eddie came and sat down next to me as well.

Lets face it. Professional wrestling is a cruel business. While the stories and feuds are "fake" and scripted, while the moves are done with safety in mind, it's still a dangerous sport where people can get injured and even killed because of what happens to them in the ring. What's truly sad is that there are probably plenty of men like "The Ram," men who tried to make their fortune in the ring, got a little taste of fame and money, and then lost it all and are now trying to deal with the consequences of their lifestyle. It's a shame that they don't have a better system set up to help them.

So should you go see the movie? If you're a wrestling fan, definitely. If you're curious about the hype, do so. It's definitely worth it.

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