The Wrestler follows Randy "The Ram" Robinson, an old and broken wrestler struggling to pay the rent for his tiny trailer. He used to be a celebrity, but now he works in a supermarket and wrestles on the weekend in front of small crowds. He's a man from the past being chewed up by the modern world. He's past his prime. Even his Nintendo is old. The first act shows the brutal effects of the job. Aside from the weights, tanning, and growth drugs we see a a tired man being repeatedly pummelled into the ground. A 'hardcore' match proves too much for him, causing a heart attack and forced retirement. Randy doesn't really know what to do outside the ring. He doesn't want to be called by his real name. He doesn't know how to speak to his daughter. He attempts to start a relationship with a stripper, who is also getting too old for her job. They both have stage lives that control them, seperate identities that earn them money and recognition. If it all doesn't work he'll have to go back to the ring. With Darren Aronofsky directing there's probably not going to be a lot of laughs, but it's a compelling and powerful drama. It's set in winter, when everything's dead or dying and getting darker. To exercise Randy runs through depressing little dead forests before stopping to cough and collapse. It doesn't go well. He could do with a Rocky-style montage. Maybe a run up some steps. But no montage comes. The film has a commitment to cold reality and won't compromise that for some traditional sports film energy.
In a big match finale, the nature of wrestling means that it's all rehearsed and decided beforehand. The uncertainty comes from the Ram's physical and emotional failures. The line between stage and reality is crossed. It doesn't sound like a lot of fun, but it's definitely worth a watch. There's enough metaphor in the script to make everybody's inner film student happy (he works at the meat counter, selling meat, because he's just a lump of meat), or you can just sit back and watch it unfold. You never know, there might be a happy ending.