1. To be fair to Marisa Tomei, it should have been titled "Meat." But "The Wrestler" is apt, because Mickey Rourke's role, as a wrestler, is much larger. But the 2 actors have equivalent parts, as human meat, making a life out of a crude display of the body. And when Rourke's character, Randy the Ram Robinson, retires from wrestling, he works at a deli counter, making up orders of sliced meat, and there is, at one point, a literal depiction of the man as meat — which I won't spoil. (Don't you hate spoiled meat?)
2. We see a lot of Marisa Tomei's naked body. It's right in our face, lap-dance style. Unlike Kate Winslet, who is always getting naked for the movie cameras, Marisa Tomei has already won an Oscar. And she is not bathed in the kind of cinematic romantic light that makes us think — as we always think when we get to gawk Kate — how beautiful and how brave. You have to struggle — crawl across the floor — to get to a feeling of respect for the actress who submitted to this script. Like the sex dancer she portrays, you think does this woman need the money so desperately?
3. Tomei and Rourke display formidable bodies topped with aging, messed up faces. In one scene, Tomei — off from work — shows up with no makeup at all. Tomei is 45 and — in her face — she looks it. Randy tells her she looks clean. She didn't look that clean, but practically nothing is clean in this movie. It's an entire world of ramshackle filth.
4. Tomei is required to utter some of the most awkward lines I have ever heard in a movie. While giving Mickey Rourke a lap dance, she has to spontaneously utter some quotes from the movie "The Passion of the Christ" and then explain that she was quoting something from the movie "The Passion of the Christ." You get the point, early on, that Randy the Ram should be understood as a Christ figure and that the narrative should be seen as The Passion. Now, you may rightly wonder why. Movies often cue us to understand a character as a Christ figure, but what is The Ram suffering for?
5. Randy the Ram. Get it? Christ is the Lamb. And The Wrestler is the Ram. O, ram of God, who... who what? Redeems us of our last shred of dignity?
6. The Ram is scourged like mad. I haven't seen "The Passion of the Christ," so I can't tell you how close the various shots in that movie might be to the shots in Mel Gibson's magnum opus. But that cut to the forehead — crown of thorns, right? — even if it is self-inflicted. Getting staple-gunned all over his body? You just know that if the Romans had had staple guns, they would have staple-gunned Christ all over his body. (If that had happened, the staple would now be a holy symbol. Link to the script for "Lenny," wherein Lenny Bruce says "Good thing we nailed him when we did, because if we had done it within the last years, we'd have to contend with generations of parochial schoolkids with little electric chairs hanging around their necks." And here's the corresponding Bizarro cartoon.)
7. I've been noting a Hollywood trend of delivering pedophiliac titillation with artistic prettification. But "The Wrestler" does not fit the trend. The sex in the movie is completely adult — and it's also grubby and ugly. There are children in the movie too, though, and Randy the Ram actually plays with them. He wants to retain his self-esteem as a wrestling hero, so he play wrestles with them, gives one an action figure of himself, and lures another one into his shabby trailer to play an old Ninetendo game (in which he is a character). In real life, people seeing that evidence would suspect the man is a pedophile, but in the movie, he is absolutely not.
8. This movie belongs on a list titled "Movies With Scenes in a Supermarket Aisle." (I'd love some help compiling this list — and also a sub-list "Movies With Scenes in a Supermarket Cereal Aisle."
9. Of all the things that made me voice the syllable best transliterated as "ugh" — one of them was egg salad.
10. I know people want me to say, when I do one of these lists, whether I am recommending the movie.
ADDED: Re #9:
AND: Mickey Rourke talks about making the movie: Part 1, Part 2.
UPDATE: This post memorializes my first date with Meade, on January 17, 2009.