I decided I was a huge Darren Aronofsky fan on the strength of one film – The Fountain – and then proceeded to not really watch more of his filmography for a while, especially when his very next film dealt with a subject I could barely care less about – a washed up wrestler. (I’m now at 4/6 features, with Requiem for a Dream coming up later in the challenge.) I’m not generally a huge sports person, and boxing/wrestling/fighting sports are my least favorite. I was told “oh, but this is a character study!” but, I mean, so was Raging Bull and I didn’t care for that at all. So this was a risky choice, though I’m sure Ryan didn’t realize what a risky choice it was!
The saving grace of The Wrestler is how much I liked Randy the Ram himself – Mickey Rourke invests the character with a lot of weariness but also a lot of heart. He was a major WWE-style wrestler in the ’80s, but now it’s twenty years later and he’s on some kind of small pro circuit with a lot of other wrestlers who seem to be either aging like him or up-and-coming. Every fight is planned out in advance, but that doesn’t stop them from being brutal.