“The Wrestler” is a film about a man desperately clinging to the time his life was good; when it meant something. It’s about a man hoping to rediscover relevance and striving to recapture glory days long since past. In that sense this film could be about any profession; seriously, how many friends do you know who work some menial job, constantly reliving high school football glory days over a beer or ten every weekend? What makes “The Wrestler” different is the setting: the carnival atmosphere of professional wrestling. Not the big-time pro wrestling you see every Monday night on cable. No, this is the minor leagues of the industry – high school gymnasiums and American Legion halls half-filled with dozens of fans. For the boys working their way up, these settings hold the promise of a bright future; for veterans on their way down, however, they provide nothing but a paycheck and a reminder of their own mortality. Such is the case for Randy “The Ram” Robinson (Mickey Rourke). The opening credits reveal that The Ram was a huge star in the Eighties; this being 2008, however, that isn’t necessarily great news. Ram is now distinctly minor league, a huge fish in a small pond with dreams of getting back to the big time. His personal life is no better than his professional one, as he’s forced to sleep in his van after being locked out of his trailer for non-payment of rent. His van is like a ground zero of delusion, the walls plastered with clippings from his heyday, a Randy “The Ram” action figure prominently placed on the dashboard. The film follows The Ram as he leads his life; working at a grocery store, where he’s taunted by his weasel boss (Todd Barry, playing a perfect dick), hanging out at a strip club, where he has a thing for an older stripper (Marisa Tomei, sufficiently wounded) dealing with her own over-the-hill issues. You see just how powerless he is to improve any aspect of his life, and you realize why this man clings so strongly to the idea that he’ll be back in the spotlight someday, and will do anything to make it happen. After a medical setback, The Ram is encouraged by his would-be girlfriend to contact his estranged daughter (Evan Rachel Wood), and the movie hits a bump in the road. The scenes between Rourke and Wood seem a little forced, as if director Darren Aronofsky felt an audience would need this storyline to further relate to The Ram, but he wanted to get the scenes over with as they detracted from the real story he wanted to tell. As it is the relationship does allow us to see the best and the worst of The Ram; his tearful confession to his daughter breaks your heart, while his self-destructive streak makes you almost as angry as his daughter that you were suckered in. There are many powerful scenes in the movie; The Ram buying steroids and painkillers from a dealer in a locker room…and I mean A LOT of steroids and painkillers. He purchases practically an entire pharmacy in one sitting, making you understand why he can’t pay his rent. Having never been in a wrestling locker room I have no idea if the scene rings true, but I do know the names of enough wrestlers who have died to believe that it does. The Ram plays video games with a young boy from the neighborhood, but of course he only plays a wrestling game on 8-Bit Nintendo, where he can be the video version of himself. When the boy asks if he’s played “Call Of Duty 4”, The Ram has no idea what he’s talking about. Everything about the character is frozen in the time period of his greatest successes, as if were he to acknowledge anything in the present day, the dream would be over and he’d have to face the reality of his life. His music, his wrestling garb; hell, even his glasses are from the past. He’s a relic, and deep down he knows it…but if he could just get one more shot, everything would be okay. These are basic human fears and emotions, and Mickey Rourke does the most amazing job of making you feel them. Certainly Rourke’s backstory makes his performance more poignant, but it’s his talent that makes it heartbreaking. One without the other wouldn’t be as effective. I’ll go so far as to say there is no other actor working today who could make you feel for this character like Mickey Rourke does. He is a walking bruise, and the performance is Brandoesque. This character is anyone who has ever felt alone, spent, used up, unappreciated, or regretful; anyone who has had to sit down and acknowledge that things aren’t going to be the way they wanted them to be, and it was time to settle for what they had. The Ram however, he can’t settle. He’s willing to go to any length, abuse himself any way necessary to get back what he’s lost. And as you see the look on his face as the fans chant his name, you understand why. The adulation and appreciation he receives in the ring is the only good thing in his life. A lot of people are comparing “The Wrestler” to “Rocky” but I don’t think that’s accurate. Rocky Balboa was a nobody who became a somebody; Randy “The Ram” Robinson is a somebody who has become a nobody. As The Ram’s cassette of Cinderella blares in his van, you “Don’t Know What You’ve Got, (Till It’s Gone).” Randy Robinson knows EXACTLY what he had. Unfortunately, he also knows it’s gone. He just can’t acknowledge it, or he’ll disappear.