January 18, 2009

10 thoughts about "The Wrestler."

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.


erictrimmer said...

You didn't like it.

Meade said...

"9. Of all the things that made me voice the syllable best transliterated as "ugh" — one of them was egg salad."

But it didn't ruin your appetite for dinner, did it? I hope not.

amba said...


Unknown said...

There was a scene in the vegetable section of a SM in Animal House. Only SM scene that pops into my head, although I know I've watched many scenes shot in SMs over the years. Lots shot at the check-out counter,but I don't specifically recall any one in particular.

Charlie Martin said...

Re #2: She didn't need money, she needed work.

Sometimes to do good work, you have to give up dignity; but there is dignity in doing good work.

Sounds to me like she (and Roarke) did good work.

Charlie Martin said...

Micheal, there's a whole piece, and rather touching one, in a supermarket in They Might Be Giants.

Darcy said...

Tomei has a "messed up" face in this movie? I get the Mickey Rourke part of this statement, but isn't Tomei still very attractive?

Ann Althouse said...

@Darcy, she's way less messed up than Rourke, but she has a careworn face that makes an interesting contrast to her body. There is a head-body mismatch for both of them, which is part of the characterization and parallelism.

Darcy said...

Ahh...that makes sense. She had a bit of that look in In The Bedroom. Thanks.

XWL said...

AV Club did a 5 Movies With Supermarket scenes list

(their 5, Manhunter, The Ipcress File, The Big Lebowski, The Stepford Wives, and 28 Days Later)

In the comments folks come up with Double Indemnity, Animal House, Raising Arizona, Go, Cobra, Bullitt, Pecker, Terms of Endearment, and Hot Fuzz.

I can think of a few not mentioned but would fit, Superbad, The Mist, Miami Blues, 10 Items or Less, and depending where you draw the line between convenience store and supermarket, No Country for Old Men, Shooter, and Hancock might fit.

Also, if you count Big Box Stores, then The Good Girl, Employee of the Month, WALL*E and Idiocracy would make the cut.

XWL said...

I forgot, Drillbit Taylor, never saw the film, but they shot part of it at the 7-11 near my house, so I know it must fit (if convenience stores count).

TitusPaperRoses said...

I loved the movie.

I agree with you on Rourke's body/face mismatch but don't see it in Marisa Tomei. She has an amazing body but I don't think she has a fucked face like Rourke does.

She is only 45-not that old. I think she looks really good. And what about those tits? Man those things are amazing.

This was a low budget movie and neither actor made that much money. But what the movie did for both their careers, especially Rourkes, will pay big dividends.

I also loved Tomei in Bedroom Window-one of my favorite movies. Sissy Spacek was amazing in that movie. I like Sissy's tits too but not as much as Tomei's.

And I love Darren Aronofsky. I would do him. Requiem For A Dream was fantastic. The music rules.

TitusPaperRoses said...

Sorry I meant, "In The Bedroom" not "Bedroom Window".

In The Bedroom was fantastic. I thought Marisa Tomei looked great and natural in that movie. Why all the hatin on Marisa? You are pissed she won an Oscar for My Cousin Vinny. By the way that Oscar award must of been on that list you posted recently of Oscars that shouldn't of been won.

TitusPaperRoses said...

Were those Marisa Tomei's real tits in the movie or did she have some cosmetic help?

If it is cosmetic help I hope she keeps them. They are nice. They are fun. They bounce. They make me smile. Tits.

Darcy said...

I think Tomei has a beautiful face, and also the talent to make it act careworn.

TitusPaperRoses said...

I think Tomei is beautiful and talented as well.

For some reason she looks like a "real person" and not like so many of the women in Hollywood.

I would fuck her.

TitusPaperRoses said...

I used to think Micky Rourke was hot but he fucked up his face so bad, which is sad.

I used to like his body but don't really like it anymore. He is too puffy. I would still probably do him though.

Unknown said...


If you like coming with movies that fit into categories, you should check out our board game Cineplexity.


PS Our card is, I believe, "SCENE: Grocery Store or Gas Station"

Ann Althouse said...

@XWL, Thanks. I love the movie "Pecker." In the supermarket scene in that movie, 2 characters make a game out of putting items in people's shopping carts -- each item is chosen for the purpose of embarrassing that particular shopper when it is discovered in amongst their "real" stuff at the checkout counter. Very funny.

Ann Althouse said...

Ah, here it is. It's called "shopping for others" and you need to go to 5:50 to see that segment. The stuff before 5:50 is good too, just the beginning of the movie/

Anonymous said...

It's actually kind of a relief to see a 45-year-old actress whose face doesn't look like that of some weird kind of latex doll from all the work she's had done. I have a great deal of respect for women who resist that particular temptation, and anyway, I like women who look like women (vs. either prepubescent boys or dolls).

Jeff with one 'f' said...

"Movies With Scenes in a Supermarket Aisle."

#1 would be Joe Namath's shopping scene in "C.C. and Company". He pushes a shopping cart up and down the aisles, casually assembling a sandwich and eating it with chips and washing it down with beer, ending at the checkout line with an empty cart and paying only for a pack of gum.

This was 1970, so of course the scene was played as "sticking it to the MAN!". The Man in this case being a struggling Piggly Wiggly.

#2 Would be Repo Man.

XWL said...

Roberto Benigni did something similar to that Pecker scene in Il Mostro

(so add Il Mostro to the Supermarket list, obviously)

Anonymous said...

"Mickey Rourke is a f---ing a-- hole. He's a f---ing redneck, motherf---ing cracker, a motorcycle-riding...you know, what kind of work does he do? I mean, he's an idiot! He's been riding a motorcycle without a helmet, and he's punch-drunk from being in the ring. How can Mickey Rourke say that me and John Singleton are responsible for the riots in L.A.? Like his films are responsible? He should get a f---ing shave, take a shower...."

Wince said...

Fake Plastic Trees

She lives with a broken man
A cracked polystyrene man
Who just crumbles and burns.
He used to do surgery
For girls in the eighties
But gravity always wins.
And it wears him out, it wears him out.
It wears him out, it wears . . .

She looks like the real thing
She tastes like the real thing
My fake plastic love.

Ever notice Thom Yorke has a lazy left eye like Paris Hilton? Some people think amblyopia is a mark of artistic creativity or musicianship.

lohwoman said...

"Double Indemnity" sprang instantly to mind, Baby.

In Aisle 2 we have "About Schmidt" and "Stakeout." There's a key convenience store aisle scene in "My Cousin Vinny."

And the supermarket scene to top them all is in "The Prizewinner of Defiance, Ohio."

Sixty Grit said...

Odd, but not one person in Pecker has a Bawmer accent, hon. That is disconcerting, like seeing the North Carolina forest in Last of the Mohicans, or Romanian landscape in Cold Mountain. It is just wrong on so many levels.

Jeff said...

If convenience stores count, the movie Clerks is set almost entirely in a convenience store with scenes in the aisles of the store.

ron st.amant said...

The concept of pro wrestling is itself a morality play, so the idea of a Christ-like figure isn't far-fetched in that particular setting. The more the 'good guy' suffers at the hands of the 'bad guy', the more powerful the ultimate victory becomes. He suffers for the whole of the audience.
When I first saw the trailer I couldn't believe that was Mickey Rourke.
He was in one of my favorite, little known films, A Prayer for the Dying with Bob Hoskins and Alan Bates.

Zachary Sire said...

The scene when Randy was having a good time in the deli, helping customers, was heartbreaking, funny, and perfect. This was one of my favorite movies of the year.

Zachary Sire said...

I was looking for the supermarket scene in "Terms Of Endearment" when Debra Winger can't afford her groceries, but instead stumbled upon this! The Oscars have a You Tube channel...tons of good stuff.

The Crack Emcee said...

I want to see "The Wrestler" but - no matter how pretty it is - how you can stand 4:55 of that warbling on the music video is beyond me.

Start a post on music and we'll talk.

Mike Ballburn said...

“My Blue Heaven” with Steve Martin as the Mafioso in the witness protection program, as he tried to pick up Carol Kane in the frozen food aisle: “You shouldn’t be in here. You could melt all this stuff!”

Ann Althouse said...

@Zachary Paul Sire -- thanks for the link to Shirley MacLaine accepting her Oscar. So strange to see all those people so much younger, and nice to hear Shirley beautifully deliver what was obviously a completely scripted speech (even if she fluffed the name of Jack Nicholson's chicken salad sandwich movie). Today, the music would come up and cut her off halfway through. And those shoulder pads! They look like halved PVC pipes.

Methadras said...

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.

Yeah, no shit. You are talking about New Jersey. Ramshackle filth is right. Pittsburgh is a close second.

blake said...

The 1972 cult classic "Dead People" has an unforgettable supermarket scene.

Supermarket scenes are awfully common. Alvin and the Chipmunks, Big Daddy, Dad, Nothing In Common--hey! it's a theme: Movies about fathers with supermarket scenes.

Hmmm. Here's a start, though for a big list....

Kev said...

Ever notice Thom Yorke has a lazy left eye like Paris Hilton? Some people think amblyopia is a mark of artistic creativity or musicianship.

I agree with you on the Thom Yorke part, but I'm still having trouble accepting "creativity" and "Paris Hilton" in the same thought. ;-)

But still, that might be a partial explanation for my chosen career in music; I had "lazy eye" in elementary school for a while--wore the patch and everything.

(Thank goodness I only had to wear it at home; at my stage of social development in third grade, I never would have lived down having to wear it to school. If it had happened nowadays, I'd just play up the pirate angle [YARR!] and have an especially good time every September 19.)

J. Cricket said...

Tomei is 45 and — in her face — she looks it.

And your blood-shot, washed out vlog looks at least your age, too, Althouse. Or higher.

Synova said...

Someone got his panties in a twist.

Anonymous said...

I was reading reviews, and advance reviews, and projections, and I saw some of the images, like Marissa (who is a hot momma) naked, and Mikey bleading, and I thought that this movie, without having seen it yet, kinda fit with your analysis.

This movie, by uglying up mickey even more than he already is, and by uglying up someone like Marissa that many a young man thinks is adorable in this way, makes it one of those ultra gritty flicks.

But "The Wrestler" does not fit the trend. The sex in the movie is completely adult — and it's also grubby and ugly.

It's not sexy, it's not adult, my guess is that it's pathetic.

Sex is so glamourized in holywood, that I think that they have never had to tread the waters that I have (and I was a beautiful young man for a time) but now I'm old and tired, and indifferent.

A lot of time, sex is nothing more than a moment that a pathetic human can feel real, with another pathetic human being, and for just that moment, you are valid, you ACTUALLY mean something.

I bet Marissa's character, is a thoughtful stripper, and Mickey's character thinks he's giving something thoughtful to his fans, but in their lives, they see that what they do is actually meaningless, and trite, and superficial, and the only real things they feel is the pathetic, outreach they both offer to eachother in engagement.

From what I've read and seen this movie looks like a GREAT description of those who can't find real value in their lives, so they create a false image that they live up to.

I haven't seen the movie, and I don't want to. Sounds reads, and views too pathetic.

And if I didn't make it clear, I respect Tomei's nudity a lot more than winslets, or demi's or Halley's.

Tomei came out nude, with the intention of being gritty and ugly.


Though I didn't see any balls in the images I saw.