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Last night, on New Year’s eve, chock full of resolutions to stop eating so much sugar and to stop being so hard on myself, my husband and I went to see The Wrestler. It was terrific, and I had no idea just how a propos it would turn out to be. Click here to see the trailer.

Mickey Rourke, the ultimate Formerly Respected, Formerly Handsome (before some awful cosmetic surgeon made his face look like Claymation) actor, plays a Formerly Huge-in-the-world-of-Independent-Pro-Wrestling bull named Randy “The Ram” Robinson. Randy (Formerly named Robin) is dealing with a litany of Formerlies that anyone keeping score at home would need a calculator to tally.

SPOILER ALERT: In discussing the characters’ Formerlies, I may let loose some details (although not the end of the movie) that you might want to discover for yourself.

The Wrestler got me thinking anew about the difference between Formerlies that you have a hand in initiating, and Formerlies that are force fed to you. Pam, Marisa Tomei’s stunning but aging pole dancer, aspires to leave the sleaze business behind her–a Formerly she hopes to bring about in hopes of feeling better about herself.

Randy’s Formerly, on the other hand, is being rammed down his throat: His worn-out, beaten-down, ‘roid fueled old body begins to fail, so per doctor’s orders, he tries to retire. He is a respected has-been at the start of the movie–Formerly a big deal in a tiny, rarefied world–but then becomes a Formerly that (i.e., a Double Formerly) reduced to selling VHS tapes of his own greatest hits at the American Legion, and wearing a hair net while slinging bologna at a New Jersey supermarket. Not for nothing, he is also Formerly a Father.

Most people, it seems, eventually adjust to their Formerly and go on to live contented existences. And Randy tried to build a new life for himself, become something else. But for Randy, that was impossible–doing so would have entailed becoming someone else, so fused to his self-definition was core self. The lengths he went through so as not to become a Formerly would have been heroic had there been something motivating him other than giant wad of fear and an inability to relinquish his view of himself. Randy is a stunted stub of a man who, as Bruce Springsteen sings during the credits, is a one-trick pony.

Anyway, see the movie. It’s so, so good.

Meanwhile, if anyone knows of any other Formerly movies to  recommend, I’d love to hear about them.

Photo from Wikipedia, qualifies as fair use