Guest Author - Barbara Rice DeShong, PhD.
Does a person ever get a second chance on life? Professional wrestler Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Mickey Rourke) cannot ignore time. He knows he’s too old to continue “competitive” wrestling and that he was only able to continue performing by using massive amounts of drugs. To add to his misery, his fallen status has him booked into third rate venues in small towns.
“The Wrestler” (2008) is a story about a man who’s never really been “alive” in the sense of having the normal joys of life. He has a daughter whom he loves from a distance, but whom he has disappointed so many times that she is now very distant. Distance is way of life for The Ram. The only human contact he “feels” is when simple and desperate fans cheer for him, especially when he shows off with his signature leap off the top of the corner rope.
Then The Ram has a heart attack. In the hospital he’s told he can never, ever wrestle again. What surprises him (and movie audiences) is that The Ram, after a brief depression, is wonderfully relieved. He decides to have a real life. He gets an ordinary job in a deli, and finds he finds a great deal of enjoyment serving customers. He contacts his daughter and they enjoy a lovely time during which he will never disappoint her again. Plans are made for a special date.
The mystery of this movie is: Will the Ram be able to live a better life as an ordinary person with ordinary, but real, relationships? Will he be able to break from the drugs and the adulation of fans? The Ram sees how artificial his earlier life had been—the wrestling wasn’t real, the drugs allowed him to perform as an athlete when he wasn’t, and the applause and cheering of his fans wasn’t for him, but for themselves.
The Ram’s weakness is his lack of human experience. He’s so elated with his new life, he’s “high.” He goes to the strip club where his long-time girlfriend—who also only knows how to relate to people in an artificial way (striping)—works and begs her to quit the life, to run away with him. The jump is too big for the girlfriend who turns him down. The Ram is crushed and doesn’t know how to deal with emotions without drugs and fans clapping. He gets drunk and high and sleeps with a woman he doesn’t know, waking up at her apartment the next morning.
The Ram missed his date with his daughter. He goes to her house and pleads for another chance, and she says “never again” in a way he knows she means it. Knowing that his heart cannot take the stress, The Ram arranges for a match-up with his rival. After a few minutes of stunts, the beaten man, crawls up on the corner rope, and flings himself down into the mat. His heart bursts.