DVD Review: The Wrestler

Relevant Magazine recently listed The Wrestler in their Top 10 Movies of 2008. Watching the movie, I would have to agree with them on their assesment, although one has to rummage through the pain and brokenness to see that this is a parable about the decisions we make, the possibility of new life, and the pain that humanity experiences. Mickey Rourke does an excellent job portraying Randy “The Ram” Robinson- who is a blue collar worker/entertainer who is 20 good years past his prime as a wrestler. Marissa Tomei is also excellent in the movie as Cassidy- a 40 something stripper who is a single mom of a 9 year old son. Here are some themes that I saw in the movie as well as some discussion questions at the end. I am sure I’m giving away a lot of the plot, so be warned if you’ve never seen the movie!

Purpose-
Randy and Cassidy are mirror images of each other in the movie. The are both past-their-prime entertainers (Wrestler/Stripper) who are looking for the glory they once had. They are both holding on by a thread for their survival. Randy survives a heart attack- only to go against his doctors orders to wrestle his former nemesis The Ayatollah for a 20 Year anniversary match. Cassidy wrestles between her job and her son. Both have a hard time imagining life outside of the life they know.

Significance/Relationship
Along with a struggle for purpose is Randy and Cassidy’s search for significance- especially in the form of relationships. Randy has no one close to him and his bad choices have burned bridges with his daughter. This is so clear as Randy participates in an autograph session with other washed up wrestlers. The extent of his relationships are people want a piece of The Ram…reliving the glory of 20 years past…with no one really interested in him. When Randy has a heart attack- he has no one to tell (except Cassidy) because his lifestyle has left him alone.

Randy does reconnect with his daughter in the movie and it is a heart warming moment. They make plans to go out to dinner on Saturday night- but Randy ends up at a bar, engaged in coked-up sex with someone 20 years younger than him- and misses his date with his daughter. This really illustrated Randy’s struggle with the “glory days” and moving on in life in significant ways.

Cassidy works the stage and the VIP area at the strip club, performing for men who pay for her services. We are given little information about her previous relationships, but through the movie she passes up the opportunity to make money to have conversations with Randy. Even then, she struggles to see Randy as more than a paying customer when Randy is interested in her and not what she has to offer in the club.

Exploitation
When Randy is speaking with his daughter as they are reconnecting, he tells his daughter “You’re my girl. You’re my little girl. And now, I’m an old broken down piece of meat.” When you think about it, celebrities are pieces of meat for our culture that consumes their every move. We think they have it together because of their fame and fortune. We buy magazines that track every move of celebrities for our entertainment and enjoyment. We expect that these people (pieces of meat) will somehow bring us meaning, purpose, entertainment, happiness.

Randy’s character had been physically and relationally exploited through wrestling. Cassidy’s character had been exploited through her job as well. Both were pieces of meat that people paid for to make them feel better, to escape reality, or for entertainment.

What does this say about our consumer driven society. We do not only consume food, but each other. We look at people in a way that says “What can you do for me?” rather than seeing the value in their lives because they are created in the image of God.

Brokenness
Throughout the movie, the viewer is left with some graphic images of the broken world we live in as both Randy and Cassidy struggle to leave the life they were living and start something new. The brokeness in Randy’s life was most apparent when he missed dinner with his daughter for sex in a bar bathroom. There was nothing meaningful or romantic in this scene. Nothing significant or meaningful. It was a vivid picture of someone who was so trapped in the life he was living that when faced with a decision- he continued in the cycle of brokeness.

This was also vivid in the movies ending. Cassidy, realizing that stripping was not the significance she was searching for, goes to the wrestling venue to find Randy and try to build a life together. She catches Randy before he goes out into the ring. Randy has a choice to make- to go out in the ring (and possibly die because of his heart), or to walk away and build a life of real significance with Cassidy. Randy chose the roar of the crowd over the one thing that really could have saved his life.

Identity
I just thought this was interesting….in two scenes Randy is called Robin. His boss at the grocery store has Robin put on his name badge rather than Randy. The boss claims he copied it off his W-4 form. Is it possible that Randy’s character had so bought into The Ram persona that he forgot who is really was? Whether or not that is intentional- or I just read too much into it- it certainly is an area to explore.

The Wrestler is Rated R and has strong language, nudity, sex, and drug use in the movie.

Questions:

1. What does Randy mean when he tells his daughter that he is nothing but a piece of meat?

2. How are Randy and Cassidy mirror images of each other? How are they different?

3. How do the choices the characters make in the movie affect their future?

4. What is the one thing that Randy and Cassidy are searching for in the movie? Where do they look for it at?

5. What are some ways the Bible deals with purpose? Relationships? Significance? Redemption? Choices?

About Steve LaMotte

Husband and father of three amazing children. Campus Minister of Wesley College in Dover, Delaware. Pastor at Hope United Methodist Church in Dover, Delaware. Elder in the Pen-Del Conference. Fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Steelers. Lover of music that makes hipsters cringe.
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