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- The Founder (2016)


I'll try bunch a couple of reviews together next time. Already got some ideas lined up going forward, but I still have no idea what direction to take Film Scratches in other than what interests me at a particular moment in time.

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  • 4 weeks later...


- Stations of the Cross (2014)


And... because the website admin seemingly forgot about my latest review, which I sent to him two weeks ago, here it is in full:

The Wrestler (2008)


In the eighties, the time of Nintendos and the coked-up high fidelity of Mötley Crüe, Randy “The Ram” Robinson ruled. The Ram was the headline for posters and magazines everywhere, and his longstanding feud with The Ayatollah (Ernest Miller) sold out Madison Square Garden. He stood on top of the world, but when the nineties crept in and “that Cobain pussy had to come around and ruin it all”, his celebrity diminished. He succumbed to nostalgia, wheeled out at fan conventions and bingo halls in front of small crowds who are trying to recapture their childhood memories.

The Ram belongs to the generation of Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior, and Randy Savage. He carries himself like a larger-than-life superstar. The camera tracks behind him as he enters a room, as though Sweet Child of Mine is blasting through the speakers and the fans are cheering. But, assuming due to a litany of bad decisions in his heyday, The Ram wrestles any show going deep into his fifties, living from pay cheque to pay cheque. Older wrestlers in real life often dictate they must be paid extra to even fall to the canvas during a match; while Randy participates in sickening weapon-filled brawls. Insert hackneyed comments about wrestling being ‘fake’ here, but the abrasions on his back after landing on glass and barbed wire prove otherwise. Financially he is barren, but The Ram also continues for the sheer thrill of it.

Randy stays in his wrestling character as it is better than the reality of a trailer park and part-time shifts at a supermarket. He grows antsy when his boss Wayne (Todd Barry) says his legal name, Robin Ramzinski. The illusion of authenticity, AKA: kayfabe, has always been integral in keeping the believability of wrestling intact. Randy being seen as anything but a rock n’ roll star kills the suspension of disbelief for the paying customer and, more importantly, himself. So, after a fan recognises him working at the deli counter, he flips out. He slashes his hand on the meat slicer, swipes away cereal boxes, and angrily shouts that he quits to restore kayfabe. Self-mutilation means nothing when cutting your forehead with a razor to bleed is part of the job.


The Wrestler (2008) – Fox Searchlight Pictures

His attraction to Cassidy (Marisa Tomei) strikes a contrast in the art of maintaining illusions. She is a stripper, getting long in the tooth, but still dances on poles and gives lap dances like those half her age. Randy buys wholly into her exotic nature and upon asking her on a date, he asks Cassidy; not Pam, the single mother who degrades herself to make ends meet. Pam thinks her own kayfabe suffices – the “no touching” rule a barrier between herself and her customers. Yet, in her own little bubble, she has the same issue as Randy: lacking connection with the people around her because of an overpowering alter-ego. Darren Aronofsky directs the strip club the same way as a wrestling match, either too up close or distant so we do not get the best picture of what is going on inside their heads.

Randy treats wrestling like an addiction. Going clean following a heart attack, he haphazardly builds relationships with Pam and his estranged daughter, Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood); and he takes extra shifts at the supermarket. But when he falls off the wagon, he follows a specific routine. The Ram bleaches his hair, buys steroids, and hits the weights. His persona resets to the eighties – listening to Poison, snorting cocaine, and shagging a groupie in a public toilet. Robinson fits Aronofsky’s love of self-destructive characters perfectly: the antagonist in The Wrestler is Randy’s inability to accept the washed-out colours and graininess of real life. Why would he settle for that when he once had thousands of fans screaming his name every night as he stood under a spotlight?

The Wrestler‘s redemption story belongs to The Stripper. A throwaway scene in which Pam instructs the babysitter and kisses her son goodbye destroys kayfabe. It shows the other side of her never seen with Robinson. When she then chooses as Cassidy to leave the strip club in the middle of a performance to try and talk The Ram out of wrestling one last match, Pam learns the best way of dealing with two personas is for them to acknowledge each other. Randy refuses Robin Ramzinski’s existence – she will not make the same mistake.

The Wrestler‘s take on such a ridiculed art form – only ever featured in cinema in its campy form in gems like Ready to Rumble and No Holds Barred – works so well as it is not really about wrestling. Sure, they show crummy backstage areas where wrestlers plan their matches (“you got the leg?”) and highlight the pain it causes. However, in Mickey Rourke’s should-have-been-an-Oscar performance, Randy “The Ram” Robinson represents those in life who have been rendered obsolete. The world progresses and shifts so quickly that complacency equals death. Holding onto what once was as it shrinks never makes it grow back. It mutates into nostalgia, a false memory; always walking with your head over your shoulder. In Randy’s case, “the Nineties fucking sucked” as it is easier to blame an arbitrary time marker than looking into a mirror and seeing a broken down man trapped in a self-destructive loop.


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